The Central Florida college football bowl season will have a definite Hawkeye State flavor to it, as the Iowa State Cyclones (7-5, 5-4) have accepted a bid to play #19 Clemson University (9-3, 6-2) in the Cheezit Bowl and the University of Iowa (10-3, 7-2) will meet #22 Kentucky (9-3, 5-3) in the 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl.
The 32nd edition of the Cheezit Bowl will take place at 5:45 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 29, and will be televised nationally by ESPN. The Vrbo Citrus Bowl will take place at 1 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 1 and will be televised nationally by ABC.
Both games are owned and operated by Florida Citrus Sports and will be played at Camping World Stadium.
This year’s Cheez-It Bowl will be the first meeting between the Cyclones and Tigers and just the second Orlando bowl trip for Iowa State, which returns to Central Florida after facing Notre Dame in the December 2019 game, known at the time as the Camping World Bowl.
Clemson will be making its fourth appearance in the Cheez-It Bowl and its first appearance since 2014 when the Tigers defeated Oklahoma in what was then known as the Russell Athletic Bowl. Clemson has also appeared in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl three times (1988, 1989, and 1992) and won the 2016 ACC Championship Game over Virginia Tech at Camping World Stadium.
The contest will be the first-ever meeting between the Wildcats and Hawkeyes and will also mark the 75th anniversary of the inaugural edition of the game, played on Jan. 1, 1947, on the same site.
This will be Iowa’s second Vrbo Citrus Bowl trip overall, and its first since defeating LSU in 2005 when Drew Tate hooked up with Warren Holloway on a miracle 56-yard pass on the final play of the game.
Champions of the Big Ten West Division, Iowa ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense this season, allowing 19.15 points per game. Linebackers Jack Campbell and Seth Benson lead the Hawkeyes defense with 126 and 95 total tackles, respectively, while Dane Belton anchors the secondary and is tied for second in the nation in interceptions with five.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes are paced by quarterback Spencer Petras, who threw for 1,669 yards and nine touchdowns this year while also adding five rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Tyler Goodson (1,151 yards and six touchdowns) leads the Hawkeyes rushing attack, while tight end Sam LaPorta (548 yards and two touchdowns) and wide receiver Keagan Johnson (352 yards and two touchdowns) pace the Hawkeyes receiving corps.
The Kentucky offense is led by quarterback Will Levis, who ranks in the top 50 nationally and top five in the SEC in passing yards (2,593 yards) and has 32 total touchdowns (23 passing, nine rushing) this season. Junior Chris Rodriguez is Kentucky’s top-producing running back with 1,272 yards and eight rushing scores, while Wan’Dale Robinson (1,164 yards and seven touchdowns) and Josh Ali (601 yards and three touchdowns) lead the Wildcats wideouts.
The Wildcats enter this matchup allowing an average of 22.08 points and 336.4 total yards per game on the season, holding opposing offenses to just 117.2 rushing yards per game (17th in the nation). Linebacker Jacquez Jones leads the team with 82 tackles, while fellow linebackers J.J. Weaver (34 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and DeAndre Square (75 tackles and three sacks) have also had strong seasons.
The Tailgreeter Cure Bowl will feature Coastal Carolina (10-2) taking on Northern Illinois (9-4, 6-2 MAC) on Friday, Dec. 17, at Exploria Stadium the home of Orlando City Soccer Club. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
It will match-up of Mid-America Conference (MAC) Champion Huskies and the upstart Chanticleers, who have gone 21-3 in the last two seasons as members of the Sun Belt Conference. Coastal Carolina tied Appalachian State for the East Conference title this year but finished second based on head-to-head results. Northern Illinois defeated Kent State, 41-23, to claim their fourth MAC Football Championship.
UCF (8-4) will meet the Florida Gators (6-6) in the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. The Gators have only faced Central Florida twice since the program joined the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996 — a 58-27 win in 1999 and a 42-0 victory in 2006 en route to a national title.
The game will be an early preview of a regular-season series announced earlier by the two schools. Florida is scheduled to play in Gainesville in 2024 and 2033, while it will travel to the Bounce House in Orlando in 2030.
Under first year head coach Gus Malzahn, the Knights struggled with injuries all season but won five of their last six games. Freshman quarterback Mikey Keene took over in Week 4 for the injured Dillon Gabriel and finished the season by completing 63.6% of his passes for 1586 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Defensively the Knights are led by defensive stalwarts Tatum Bethune (101 tackles) and Big Kat Bryant (14 tackles-for-loss, 6 quarterback sacks).
The Gators became bowl eligible with a 24-21 win over Florida State in their season finale. The Florida offense is led by running back Dameon Pierce, who rushed for 517 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
Tickets and additional information on four games can be found on the following websites: Vrbo Citrus Bowl/Cheezit Bowl at www.FCSports.com; Tailgreeter Cure Bowl at www.Curebowl.com; and Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at www.gasparillabowl.com.