By Nicholas Barker
After a season of postponements, cancelations and COVID-19 outbreaks, Glendale is set to host the 50th edition of the Fiesta Bowl, which will see the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks and the Big 12 runner-up Iowa State Cyclones.
Barring any outbreaks or postponements, the teams are set to kick off at 2 p.m. January 2 at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. It is the second-to-last bowl game, not including the championship game set for January 11.
Oregon, which defeated USC in the Pac-12 Championship game, was not supposed to be in this position. At the top of the Pac-12 North, Washington was unable to play in the championship game due to COVID-19 complications, meaning Oregon received the chance to play, and they took advantage of the situation. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal was thankful for the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl.
“It’s certainly a tremendous honor to be here and represent our conference in the Fiesta Bowl,” Cristobal says.
“(I am) proud of our guys after a really hard-fought game on Friday night. The ability to go out and earn a Pac-12 conference title for the second consecutive year is something we don’t take for granted. Extremely fired up about the opportunity.”
Oregon will be playing in its seventh New Year’s Six bowl game in the last 10 seasons, an impressive feat that not many schools can claim. After a hectic six game season that many thought wouldn’t happen, Cristobal was happy with how his team responded to the challenges and how, after almost a complete roster turnaround, the team repeated as conference champions.
“To be able to endure all that stuff and still come out with a Pac-12 title, it speaks loudly, and at the same time, a lot of lessons learned along the way,” Cristobal says.
“I think it will provide a tremendous boost in the teaching moments for our program to continue on that upward trajectory.”
On the other side, Iowa State is coming off one of its best seasons, and a disappointing loss in the Big 12 Championship game to Oklahoma. Iowa State won its first Big 12 regular season championship and reached its highest ranking. Head coach Matt Campbell couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to play in this great game,” Campbell says.
“We certainly understand the prestige and history of the Fiesta Bowl, and to play an opponent like Oregon and what coach Cristobal has continued to do there and the success of the program, I can tell you our kids will be truly honored to play in this game.”
Iowa State will be playing in its 16th bowl game, and they will be looking for its fifth win in those bowl games. It is also the first New Year’s Six bowl game for the Cyclones.
Iowa State is coming off a tough loss to end the Big 12 season, and a win against Oklahoma would have put them in serious consideration for the last spot in the College Football Playoff. After trailing the whole game, the Cyclones came close to taking the lead against Oklahoma. Campbell knows his team will bounce back after a heartbreaking loss.
“We’ve never let one game define who we are, and I think that’s why this program and this team continues to grow and do great things,” Campbell says. “We kind of ran out of time as that game ran on, but I couldn’t have been prouder of what we did and how our kids played in that football game.”
Both teams had two weeks to prepare for their last games of the season.
Arizona was also scheduled to host two other bowl games this year, including the Arizona bowl between San José State and Ball State, and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, which has recently been canceled due to complications with COVID-19.
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl is set to be played with no fans in the stands, and it will certainly be an entertaining matchup between two of the best teams in the country.