Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Dec 30, 3:30pm (ET), ESPN
Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Line: Iowa State -1 (others have Tulsa -1)
We've come to one of the rarest of things in bowl season – an actual rematch of a regular season matchup – as Iowa State takes on Tulsa. It's only fitting that the two teams that opened the season against each other close it out against each other, right? For Tulsa it's a chance to redeem themselves for a loss at Jack Trice and for the Cyclones it's a chance to prove themselves yet again as somehow they've managed to be underdogs (according to some Vegas odds) yet again. This matchup will truly answer the age old question, who wins between a Cyclone and a Hurricane!! Aren't you excited yet?
Sexiness: Abigail Adams – O.k., this one may be a bit of a stretch, but stick with me… I mean she was the husband of one of the greatest founding fathers and all, no? That's the sole reason we picked her. Seriously, it's not as if an epic fight between two schools with nicknames that are natural disasters can be sexy. Besides, I'd rather be nice than be mean to another celeb that doesn't deserve the publicity. So, congrats Abigail Adams, you've made an unlikely appearance in CBR lore.
A word about our sponsor…: AutoZone, seriously if you don't know who AutoZone is by now…. Ummmmm, ya…. I've got no words for you. O.k., that may be a bit harsh, but the point is that the auto parts and service store is kinda everywhere and has a giant presence in the Memphis area. So, it all makes sense for them to sponsor this bowl game. At least it's not named after some crappy food chain, but hey, why not name it after BB King or something that really screams Memphis, no?
Aces: There is no doubt that ISU's strength lies in it's defense. Every opponent has come up against ISU and scored less points than they've averaged for the season. That's the definition of a solid defense. They are also opportunistic to say the least.
Deuces: Normally I wouldn't be saying ISU's running game is their weakness at all, but without Shontrelle Johnson it's going to be running back by committee and for a team that scored just 10 rushing TD's all season that's not good news. Look out for DeVondric Nealy as a sleeper in the rushing category for the Cyclones though, he wasn't a back used in the 1st matchup and that could be to their advantage.
Wildcard: There is no question the wildcard is Sam Richardson, who came in near the mid-point of the season to take on the starting QB role, and he's been pretty successful since then. Richardson has completed 62% of his passes this season and remarkably (for ISU) has 7 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. If that continues he could be the key to victory.
Aces: If I didn't say it was the Hurricane's rushing game I'd be crazy. After all, they do rank 11th in the country in rushing and average 240.2 yards a game as a team. Individually they have three backs that all went for more than 700 yards in Trey Watts (959 yards), Ja'Terian Douglas (857 yards), and Alex Singleton (765 yards, 21TD's). They all have their roles with Watts being the feature back, Douglas the home run hitter and Singleton the TD marchine as you can see.
Deuces: Turnovers have been killer, or at least the potential for those turnovers have been killer. They've fumbled the ball 26 times this season, losing 11 of them and against an opportunistic and physical defense like ISU that's not a good recipe for success. Especially when QB Cody Green has to throw the football as well. If Tulsa losses look toward turnovers as a major factor.
Wildcard: It may sound like I'm playing a broken record here, but it's the Tulsa QB and Nebraska transfer Cody Green. He's been wildly inconsistent to say the least. If he's on this team wins football games, but against the better defenses he's faced he hasn't faired as well and that could spell trouble against a pretty solid Cyclones defense.
So you don’t forget…: Iowa State will be without a running back that played a big part in their win, Shontrelle Johnson, and that could be a big time factor in this matchup as will the fact that the will be missing the heart and soul of their defense in Jake Knott. Also interesting to note that this will the 2nd of 3 meetings in literally 386 days, as these two teams will meet again on Sept. 23rd, 2013, so enjoy the 2nd episode in this trilogy.
Crystal Ball: Iowa State won the 1st matchup in Ames and with this one being on a neutral field it will be interesting, especially since you and I both know teams don't look or act the same from beginning to end. That's certainly the case for Iowa State and it's slightly the case for the Hurricane, so this one is almost like playing a new opponent if you're Tulsa. That could favor the Hurricane, but Iowa State's changes have given them a better offensive attack to go with a pretty stout defense. Conventional wisdom says big time players out to injury means a big time loss for that team, but under Paul Rhoads that simply isn't the case. They have a history of program defining wins when they shouldn't happen. You've gotta think that Paul Rhoads will have his guys ready and PROUD to play in this game and I've got the Cyclones with a slight edge because of the emotional nature of their team and the fact that betting against Paul Rhoads with his back against the wall is plain stupid.
Score: Iowa State 31, Tulsa 27