The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State (7-5) vs. Memphis (10-2)
Spread: Memphis -3.5
Spread: Matt Campbell engineered quite the turnaround in Year 2 with the Cyclones, as the team improved to 7-5 from a 3-9 record in 2016. They did it by upping their scoring average by two points, while dropping their points allowed by 10 from 31.3 in 2016 to just 21 this season. The offense definitely went through its share of trials this year with four different quarterbacks seeing time, including Joel Lanning who had transitioned to playing linebacker prior to the season. In the end, the wheel settled on Kyle Kempt for the last seven games of the season and the senior balled out, completing 66 percent of his passes for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns with just three picks. Helping the offense run smoothly through all of the QB switches was RB David Montgomery (234 carries 1,095 yards 11 TD) and WR Allen Lazard (61 catches 799 yards 9 TD).
Interestingly, Lanning, the former QB and part-time QB this season, led the team in tackles with 110, 10 for loss and five sacks. The Cylcones as a unit have been pretty good against the run, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry and 134 yards total per game. Opposing passers have had success against them, completing 67 percent of his passes for over 230 yards per game. It will be interesting to see how they match-up against a fast-paced, speedy, Memphis team that loves to air it out.
Speaking of the Tigers, they ranked second in the nation in scoring offense this year at 47.7 per game while averaging over 540 yards of offense. QB Riley Ferguson is the conductor of the offense, completing 63 percent of his passes for over 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. His main weapon is speedy senior receiver Anthony Miller, who went over 1,400 yards receiving with 17 touchdowns. The leading rusher was running back Darrell Henderson who went over 1,100 yards with 9 TDs and he combined with Patrick Taylor (807 yards 13 TD) to form a potent rushing attack.
But, the Tigers struggled defensively, allowing over 33 points and 476 yards per game. Only twice all year did they hold an opponent below 26 points, and both of those instances came against the American Conference’s bottom-feeders this year (ECU and Tulsa). They’ll have trouble stopping David Montgomery in the run game as they’ve given up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground (196.3).
Memphis went 7-4-1 against the spread this year and they were 5-2-1 as the favorites. Iowa State was one of the best teams in the country for folks looking to make a little money, going 10-2 against the spread and 6-2 as underdogs. The two losses? Against Texas (were 5 point dogs, lost by 10) and West Virginia (3.5 point dogs, lost by 4). They’ve been in a lot of games this season, and I think they’ll stay close here too. Iowa State +3.5
Total: Two competing forces at work here as ISU was 4-8 in hitting the over this year while Memphis was 9-3. Despite the struggles of Memphis’ defense, I think the Cyclones D is good enough to slow the pace of this game a bit and keep it under the number. Under 66.