Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis Expert Pick and Prediction – December 29, 2023
LIBERTY BOWL: IOWA STATE VS. MEMPHIS EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 29, 2023 — Maybe Matt Campbell should pretend someone on his roster has suffered a serious injury in the fall next year, because he does his best work without expectations. Two years ago, the Cyclones came in off a 9-3 season with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall back, and they ended up just 7-6. Last season, they crashed to a 4-8 season and Campbell’s worst finish in the Big 12.
Needless to say, expectations were low in Ames this season. And Iowa State blasted expectations, going 7-5 and getting back into the top half of the Big 12. Out of five losses, four of them came to ranked opposition, and the fifth wouldn’t have occurred at all if not for a missed angle on a field goal attempt erroneously called no good. An eight-win season would do a lot to quiet any doubters and again make Iowa State an ascending program.
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They visit a Memphis team that does one thing well: put up points. The Tigers have scored like nobody’s business, with 34 being the lowest total they’ve scored since mid-October. But the Tigers also cannot stop anyone, giving up at least 21 points in 10 straight games. This team managed to go over the total against a service academy in the regular season, which takes some doing.
The Tigers will definitely score, making this a potential battle of who has the ball last. Given that Iowa State can get the occasional stop, that favors the Cyclones.
(7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)
(9-3 SU, 4-7-1 ATS)
When: Friday, December 29th at 3:30 p.m. EST
Where: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.
Public Bets: 54% on Memphis
Public Money: 68% on Iowa State
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 26th, 2023.
Iowa State vs. Memphis In-Season Trends
There were two instances where Memphis went under all season: Tulane and Arkansas State. In the Tulane game, the Tigers couldn’t really get going the way they usually do, but Tulane’s rubber-banding tendency showed up again and kept Memphis in the game. Against Arkansas State, that was the only time all year where the defense did its job.
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Iowa State has been the easiest team to predict all season, because the Cyclones win when they should and lose when they should. For the season, there’s a perfect match between the Cyclones’ 7-5 SU and 7-5 ATS marks. Iowa State covers when it should and fails to cover when it shouldn’t. Not once this year have the Cyclones covered in a losing effort or had their opponent cover without winning the game.
Most teams coming to Memphis might have an issue with the weather here. The Cyclones should be right at home. Temperatures will hit 37 degrees with rain and possible snow in the forecast. In Ames, that’s considered a pleasant day in March.
Seth Henigan can sling it all over the field and usually does, throwing for 28 touchdowns against nine interceptions. But given that the Tigers have nothing on the other side of the field, he does that in large part because he has to, which isn’t exactly a winning strategy against better teams.
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Iowa State can go with either the pass or the run, depending on what they end up seeing from the Tigers. Either one is likely to work; Rocco Becht just has to let the game come to him in the quarterback role. With 20 touchdowns and 2,674 yards, he’s mostly done that. As long as the Cyclones don’t turn it over, they should handle this situation.
Taking the Cyclones and the over is tempting, but a little too easy. There’s always the possibility that the over doesn’t hit because the Iowa State defense is able to put the brakes on Henigan. Given that Memphis allowed 50 to South Florida, the Tigers coming up with any stops seems unlikely.
So for me, the best play on the board is to back Iowa State over its team total. This gets you out of having to mess with the Memphis offense. I’m not at all scared of the Memphis defense, making for an ideal play.
Iowa State -10.5
Iowa State TTO 34.5