It's been a season of firsts for Iowa State football in 2020.
The Cyclones finished with their best conference record ever (8-1), went to their first-ever Big 12 Championship game and received the highest ranking in school history seemingly every week that passed during the regular season.
Keeping with the theme of newfound success of this season, it seems only right that on Saturday the season ends the way it started, with a chance for the program to take an even bigger step in the 2020 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
Just like the majority of its accomplishments during the 2020 season, Iowa State's Fiesta Bowl berth has some firsts that come with it.
Iowa State has never been to a New Year's Six bowl game (Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Peach Bowl) and has never played against No. 25 and Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks.
Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said while the opportunity for the program has been given another big stage to shine on, he said the Cyclones are keeping a balance of knowing what's in front of them while also staying in the moment every day.
“What an honor to be able to play in the Fiesta Bowl in a game that has this kind of magnitude and obviously this kind of tradition around it,” Campbell said.
Campbell gave his respect toward Oregon Head Coach Mario Cristobal and what Oregon has done as a program over the last decade, including winning the Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl last season.
A big difference between the two schools outside of the postseason resume and program status is the amount of games each team has played during this COVID-19 football season.
Iowa State has played 11 games coming into this game, while Oregon has played in six games, with two games being canceled in its Pac-12 schedule.
Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar said there are advantages and disadvantages to playing less or more games than an opponent, but said Iowa State's preparation for the Ducks resembles the type of scouting the team had to go through at the beginning of the season.
With less games under Oregon's belt, Kolar said finding tendencies will be much harder than other teams Iowa State has faced. Kolar said six games is enough for Iowa State to study, it would have been a lot tougher if instead there were two to three games of film.
Like his head coach, Kolar is excited for the opportunity for Iowa State to try and make some more history to cap this season off.
"You know, we're grateful that we got the opportunity to play in a New Year's Six and play against a great program like Oregon. I think we're proud to represent us and be the first team to go on to a New Year's Six," Kolar said. "I think we're excited, prepared and doing everything we can to be as prepared and ready for the game as we can."
For Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, Saturday will feel like a dream come true.
Growing up just over 40 minutes away from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, home of the 2020 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Purdy said he spent his childhood dreaming of this game and what it would be like to have his moment on the stage of the Fiesta Bowl.
Three years in to his Iowa State career and Purdy is about to have his dream come true.
"And it's a dream that I'm going to be able to live out. So yeah, it's been amazing. It's been a fun ride. Seeing where I've come from and being able to get to this point is everything to me," Purdy said. "So I'm really excited for it, yeah, and it's going to be a dream come true for sure.
“I already know I’m going to have goosebumps going into that game."
Purdy never attended a Fiesta Bowl in person as a kid, but said he would watch games with friends and teammates during his time in Gilbert over the years.
Purdy's favorite Fiesta Bowl was the 2006 Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma, a 43-42 overtime win for Boise State that went back and forth the whole way.
And while the dreams of his younger self are fun to reminisce about, Purdy said he came to Iowa State to bring the program to a moment like this and he won't spend a whole lot of time caught in the moment.
“I came here for a reason, to help get this program going with coach Campbell and everybody and so be able to get to a New Year’s Six bowl for me is pretty astonishing and it feels great, but we still have to go there and win the game, it’s not just to get there,” Purdy said.