Finished Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL STORYLINES
1. Memphis made it all the way to a second overtime in the most entertaining of all the conference championship games before falling 62-55 to UCF, the lone unbeaten team in FBS, and missing out on a chance to go to a New Year's Six bowl. The Tigers will instead stay close to home and play Iowa State in the Autozone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30 in Memphis, Tenn. The Cyclones played giant killer this season with wins over Oklahoma and TCU but stumbled down the stretch with losses in three of their last four.
2. Memphis' success brought the usual overtures from Power 5 schools toward head coach Mike Norvell, who quieted any rumors by inking a five-year extension. The coaching carousel did not leave the Tigers entirely unscathed, as offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey accepted the same position at Texas A&M. Dickey guided a Memphis offense this season that finished second in FBS in scoring average at 47.7 points - behind only UCF - while rolling up an average of 548 yards.
3. Iowa State managed to hang onto its head coach as well, with Matt Campbell, who was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year, signing a six-year extension worth a reported $3.5 million annually. Campbell's Cyclones squad is known more for its defense than its offense and will challenge the high-scoring Tigers with a unit that limited eight of its last 10 opponents to 20 or fewer points. Iowa State finished the season 29th in FBS in scoring defense while surrendering an average of 21 points.
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Memphis -3.5
ABOUT IOWA STATE (7-5, 5-4 Big 12): The bright spot for the Cyclones offense came from sophomore running back David Montgomery, who finished the regular season with 1,094 yards and 11 touchdowns. Montgomery suffered a leg injury in the regular-season finale against Kansas State while being limited to 14 yards on four carries but told reporters, "I'm great. My body's good," when asked if he would be ready for the Liberty Bowl. A healthy Montgomery will take some of the pressure off quarterback Kyle Kempt, who missed a win over Baylor on Nov. 18 with a shoulder injury but came back in time for the regular season finale and threw a pair of TD passes as Iowa State came up just short in a 20-19 loss at Kansas State.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (10-2, 7-1 AAC): Tigers' quarterback Riley Ferguson boasts an eye-popping stat line with 3,971 yards passing and 36 TDs, and he nearly brought his team to victory in the AAC Championship game by throwing for 471 yards and four scores. Ferguson's favorite target is fellow senior Anthony Miller, who hauled in 92 catches for 1,407 yards and 17 TDs - the second-most yards and TD catches in FBS. Miller became Memphis' third consensus All-American and heads into his final college game with 36 career TDs and 3,535 career yards.
PREDICTION: Memphis 38, Iowa State 21
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