Iowa State Cyclones (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (10-3, 8-1 C-USA)
Time – 2:30 p.m. CT | TV – ESPN
Weather – Low 40’s, mostly cloudy, 75% chance of rain | Wind: 8.04 mph S
Memphis will feature a rematch of the season openers for both schools as Tulsa would like to make things even against Iowa State. Starting out 4-1 and having a lot of promise heading into the Big 12 season after defeating then 15th-ranked TCU, Iowa State faltered down the stretch only winning two of their last seven. The Golden Hurricanes dominated Conference USA and won it by defeating UCF twice in the last three weeks of the year.
Things started to rekindle for ISU after redshirt freshman Sam Richardson went into the game against Kansas and led the Cyclones to a dominating 51-23 victory. He made his first start in the regular season finale against West Virginia and actually had the lowest completion percentage compared to any other quarterback that started a game for Iowa State this season (41.9 percent).
Richardson would like to rebound from the disappointing loss to the Mountaineers. He will have his chance as Tulsa just ranks 58th in pass defense, but it will be a far better compared to the defenses he’s faced so far (WVU ranks 122nd and Kansas ranks 116th).
Iowa State will more than likely need to have the same success it had on the ground when they first met. They ran the ball 45 times, the third-most attempts in any game this season, for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Even against anemic defenses like the Jayhawks and Mountaineers, at least the Cyclones were able to establish some momentum in the running attack by getting over 200 yards on the ground in both of those games.
Of course, that’s helped by Richardson who adds an effective dynamic running game. He’s responsible for 187 of the 475 yards picked up on the ground in the last two games, including going over the century mark against WVU.
On the defensive side, Iowa State still matches up well to what Tulsa will try to establish. The Golden Hurricanes do rank 11th in the nation in running the ball, but that’s where the Cyclones have been most effective – at least when Jake Knott was still with the team. Even still, the team defends the run decently but will need to avoid giving up the big plays in the air.
The Cyclones will also need to stop third-down conversions. Good quarterbacks have killed ISU all year by being able to keep their team on the field and limiting the Cyclones’ possessions. Iowa State needs to control the ball like they did in the season opener to help out the defense.
Kickoff will be at a chilly Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee, at 2:30 p.m. CT. According to the latest Las Vegas odds, Iowa State is favored by one point.
Richardson will likely struggle sometimes under the pressure of just his second start of his career, and Tulsa will take advantage of a rather weak Cyclone defense, but I believe that Iowa State will make the plays in the end to win the game and finish off the season with a winning record.
Iowa State 36, Tulsa 33