Iowa State vs. Tulsa: Liberty Bowl Breakdown
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: The revenge factor. Iowa State and Tulsa are hardly strangers, having met in both programs' season openers on Sept. 1. Despite taking a 16-7 lead early, the Golden Hurricane allowed the Cyclones to scored 24 unanswered and steal a 38-23 win in Ames. But a full season worth of results did more to separate these teams than a single game: Tulsa captured its first Conference USA title since 2005 and can tie a school record with its 11th win of the season, while Iowa State finished second to last in the Big 12 with a 6-6 record. The Cyclones lost five of their final seven games after a 4-1 start. Monday's meeting in Memphis will be a prime opportunity for Tulsa to avenge an early loss in a game it let slip away.
• Keep an eye on: Tulsa's ground attack. The Golden Hurricane average 240.2 rushing yards per game, 11th in the nation, and the majority of their output comes courtesy of a three-pronged attack. Tailbacks Alex Singleton, Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas each tallied more than 750 rushing yards on the season. Singleton notched his school-record 41st career touchdown with a dive into the end zone in Tulsa's overtime win over Central Florida in the C-USA title game. Iowa State's A.J. Klein and Jake Knott-led defense (the latter has since been lost to a season-ending shoulder injury) held the Golden Hurricane to just 160 rushing yards in this season's first meeting, and Tulsa's chances at the program's 11th victory will rely heavily on its ground production.
• Did you know: Despite losing only 11 fumbles all season, Tulsa fumbled the ball two or more times in all three of its losses -- including coughing the ball up four times in its season-opening loss to Iowa State.
• Final analysis: Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson gives coach Paul Rhoads' squad an X-factor it didn't have in its previous meeting with Tulsa. Richardson replaced Steele Jantz against Kansas on Nov. 17 and went on to throw seven touchdowns with no interceptions in the last two games of the season. But this Tulsa team has also come a long way since September. The production of the Golden Hurricane's ground game will be too much for Iowa State to handle this time around.
• The pick: Tulsa 30, Iowa State 24