The Liberty Bowl is one those bowls that’s been around for awhile. The first Liberty Bowl was played on December 19th, 1959. Penn State beat Alabama by a score of 7-0. Incidentally, there wasn’t anything significant about that particular game. However, in this year’s 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, the Tigers will make their inaugural appearance.
2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Preview
Strangely enough, its taken over 58 years for the Memphis Tigers to play on their home field in the postseason. For this reason alone, the atmosphere for this game should be incredible. And this matchup seems to be a fascinating mix of opposites.
Teams: Memphis (10-2) vs. Iowa St. (7-5)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30th at 12:30 p.m. EDT/11:30 a.m. CDT
Venue: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee
TV Channel: ABC
The 2017 Memphis Tigers were slated to be a very good team coming into this season. The Tigers had 15 returning starters returning from 2016 which is extremely rare. In 2016, Memphis went 8-5 under new coach Mike Norvell. Memphis built on last year’s win over Houston in their last regular season game of the season in 2016. Memphis beat Houston 48-44 in that game.
Similarly, in 2017, the Memphis Tigers started off 3-0 with an impressive win over then ranked UCLA 48-45. Be that as it may, the Tigers couldn’t beat UCF in the fourth game. UCF thumped them 40-13. Memphis would not lose another game until the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship Game against UCF once again. The second time around was a lot more competitive. The game went into double overtime but Memphis fell 62-55.
Memphis is led by their star quarterback Riley Ferguson. Ferguson has been incredibly consistent in the last two years. In 2016, he threw for 3,698 yards with 32 TDs against only 10 interceptions. That includes a 63.2 completion percentage. Similarly, in 2017, Ferguson threw for 3,971 yards and a 36-9 TD-Int ratio. Add that with a 63.0% completion rate, and he’s been beyond stellar. Iowa State will have their hands full stopping a Tigers team that average nearly 48 points a game.
To say that the Iowa State Cyclones have overachieved is the understatement of the year. The last time the Iowa State Cyclones surpassed seven wins was back in 2000 when they went 9-3. That was the last time the Cyclones finished the season in the Top 25.
Good luck finding anyone before the season started that had Iowa State winning more than four or five wins. The Cyclones have been the doormat of the Big 12 for so long, most fans simply chalk up a win when Iowa State pops up on their schedule. But not anymore. With impressive wins against Oklahoma and TCU, this team is no joke anymore.
Iowa State uses their running back David Montgomery very successfully. Montgomery ran for 1,094 yards on 234 carries for 4.7 yards per carry. Also, he can be a dangerous back as a receiver. He caught 35 passes for 288 yards.
Their defense is also a staunch group for points given up. The Cyclones rank 24th, giving up only 20.7 points a game. That’s down almost ten points from 2016.
Ultimately, this game is going to be the battle of the opposites. Memphis is going to want to push the pace, while Iowa State will be aiming to control the clock and run the ball. With the home crowd behind the Tigers, it seems like a tall task to ask for Iowa State to overcome. Look for a close game though.
Prediction: Memphis 28 Iowa State 27