Notre Dame has been a part of some insane rivalries over the years, but the Fighting Irish have never faced Iowa State — which isn't all that surprising, given Iowa State's relative place in the history of college football. But now, the Cyclones have their chance in the sun against one of the sport's elite programs.
So what do we call this game? Catholics vs. Cornfields?
Eh, we'll work on it.
From the moment this bowl matchup was announced, I went through a series of emotions. The first was shock — before Sunday, I had been sure Iowa State was headed to the Liberty Bowl with Kansas State going to Orlando. After all, Kansas State was 8-4, beat Iowa State convincingly and its fanbase has a similar reputation to Iowa State of traveling well to bowl games.
Plenty of Kansas State fans who were definitely not mad online (not mad at all) shared the same sense of surprise. But then again, the bowl selection process is notoriously not about the on-field product as much as it is about the prospect of making money from ticket sales and television coverage.
As it turns out, the Cyclones' recent extension of Matt Campbell's contract may have helped as well.
"The fact that he committed to stay at Iowa State was a big factor," Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said. "As they told us, 'you've got a national brand coach.'"
Then, I shifted to thinking about what it means for the Cyclones — and the answer is a lot.
Iowa State's only played one game in the state of Florida in its history. Florida is a talent-rich state that consistently produces thousands of Division I football players each season — and the Cyclones haven't stepped foot in the state since 1974, not even in their bowl games.
How is that even possible?
But, no matter — now, the Cyclones have their shot to impress fans and recruits in the Sunshine State in person.
And then there's the opponent — Notre Dame. The Golden Domers. One of the winningest football programs in college football history. Iconic yet extremely overrated movies based on a blown-out version of the true story (y'all know what I'm talking about here).
Talk about an easy way to sell bowl tickets.
I'm not sure how excited Notre Dame is about the matchup, given that the Irish are 10-2 with losses to just Georgia and Michigan. The Irish don't have many signature wins, but they've beaten the teams in front of them — something Iowa State struggled to do when it has faced good opponents this season.
Notre Dame is led by Ian Book on the offensive side of the ball. Book has had his ups and downs in his career with the Fighting Irish, but this season he has 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions with 2,792 yards on a 59.3 percent completion percentage.
It sets up for what could be an entertaining battle of quarterbacks between Book and Brock Purdy.
Campbell said he was excited about the opportunity to play against such a big program.
"To be able to play an opponent like this and that is how the season ends; we're really fortunate," Campbell said.
This is one of Iowa State's best chances yet to prove itself on a national stage as a program on the rise. Whether it takes advantage or not, we'll see Dec. 28 in Orlando, but the Cyclones have an opportunity they could have only dreamed of when the decade began.
Buckle up, and bring along your Mickey Mouse ears.