Memphis Tigers (10-2, 7-2) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (7-5, 5-4)
Location: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Time: Saturday, Dec. 30 at 11:30 p.m. CT
Line: Memphis -3.5 O/U 66
History: Georgia vs. TCU (Georgia 31–23)
The Big 12 only having ten teams is the most annoying fact in college sports to me. It triggers me. My OCD alarms start going off.
How hard is it to just rename your conference? Or just add a couple of teams? How hard can it be to just change your name to the “Southwestern Conference” or the “BIg Midwest”? With all due respect to the AAC, Memphis and Houston should have been added years ago, but I digress.
It already feels like there are G5 programs that are at par or better than a handful of Big XII programs (Boise State, Houston, Memphis, USF, UCF), the only real difference is the access they get to the playoff system and the money that comes from it. This is one of those matchups. Vegas only giving them 3.5 points in this game is a gift from Santa Claus. Take it and run.
I know Iowa State is the Big <12’s rattlesnake. They have victories over Oklahoma and TCU on their resume. Matt Campbell has got that program moving in the right direction. They play tough defense and have a very efficient offense. They are battle tested.
That said, this is a Memphis home game.
Memphis is led by the law firm of Ferguson & Miller, as in QB Riley Ferguson and WR Anthony Miller. Ferguson and Miller helped the Tigers rank 2nd in FBS in scoring offense at 47.7 ppg. Miller caught 92 balls for 1,407 yards and 17 TDs; Ferguson threw 36 TD passes and will undoubtedly cross the 4,000-yard mark in this game Saturday afternoon.
They are both seniors, and this is their last game in Tigers uniforms. I expect Mike Norvell to use his electric offense to entertain the home crowd. So they lost twice to a historically good UCF team twice? Indeed, nothing to be ashamed of, no one else was able to do it. Mike Norvell has successfully built on top of the foundation that Justin Fuente laid during his time in southwest Tennessee.
Memphis has averaged 9.25 wins per season from 2014-17. The four years prior, 2010-13, Memphis averaged 2.5 wins per year. This senior class turned the program around. For all the hard work they put in during the last four years, they get what amounts to a 2nd senior-day in front of what should be a substantial pro-Tigers crowd.
The key matchup to watch will be the Memphis offense vs. the Iowa State defense. Iowa State is used to playing against high-scoring offenses in the Big 12. Their defense is ranked 28th in the country in points allowed. If they can get pressure on Ferguson and cause him to turn the ball over, they could out-physical the Tigers potentially. All-Big 12 DBs Brian Peavy and Kamari Cotton-Moya could make things difficult for Ferguson % Co.
Iowa State has a balanced offense led by Oregon State transfer Kyle Kempt who stepped in once Jacob Park left the team early in the season. Their starting RB David Montgomery was 2nd in the conference in rushing and scored 11 TDs. They have an array of weapons on the outside that can make plays that includes Allen Lazard with 61 receptions and 799 yards with 9 TDs on the season.
QB Riley Ferguson
WR Anthony Miller
RB Darrell Henderson
RB Patrick Taylor Jr.
WR/RB Tony Pollard
LB Genard Avery
LB/S Austin Hall
QB Kyle Kempt
RB David Montgomery
WR Allen Lazard
WR Hakeem Butler
CB Brian Peavy
S Kamari Cotton-Moya
LB Willie Harvey
LB Joel Lanning
Memphis Tigers – 48
Iowa State Cyclones – 34