Autozone Liberty Bowl: Memphis vs Iowa State

By Lee Wakefield

Christmas is over and with that, we turn our attention to New Year celebrations and of course, the College Football Playoff. At the Touchdown, we will of course have you covered all the way through, as we have done right here for all of the bowl games so far. Today we look at the Liberty Bowl, where the Memphis Tigers, play in their stadium against the Iowa State Cyclones.

Last year’s Liberty Bowl was an epic between Kansas and Arkansas, which went to overtime and ended up with 108 points scored between the sides. Here’s hoping for a similar showing this time around!

Where and When

Autozone Liberty Bowl

Location: Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee

Date: 29th December 2023

Time: 3:30 pm (ET)

Story so far…

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Memphis has had a nice season so far, even if they didn’t make it into the American Conference Championship game. The Tigers have posted a 9-3 overall record this year, with a 6-2 conference record. Their three losses have come to Missouri, of the SEC, and within the conference to SMU and Tulane. When you take into account that SMU won the conference championship against Tulane, we can say that the result of the regular season was entirely fair.

Memphis has a high-powered offense, that has put up at least 44 points in their five most recent victories, which came in their past six games. In the game that they didn’t win in that stretch, against SMU, they still managed to run up 34 points. So if the Tigers lose, they at least go down swinging! 

For Matt Campbell and the Cyclones, it was a fourth-placed finish in the Big XII with a 7-5 overall record (6-3 in conference play. This was about as good as they could have wished for, given the gap between Texas, Oklahoma, and the rest in the majority of seasons.

It was a bitty regular season that never gathered positive, or negative momentum. The Cyclones never lost more than two games in a row and their longest win streak of the year was just three games. Outside of those two instances, a win followed a loss and vice versa.

Sometimes their offense has fired on all cylinders, such as last time out against Kansas State, where they put up 42. However, at times the offense has been putrid, such as the 7 points they mustered against Ohio, or the 13 points they had against Iowa.

It must be said that both of those impotent showings were back in September but they’ve still shown a high degree of variance in their results this year.

The Quarterbacks…

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Memphis QB, Seth Henigan is a remarkably stable passer if you look at his career counting stats. The Junior throws around 3,500 yards each year, at anywhere between 8.2 and 8.8 yards per completion, and he’ll throw 8 or 9 interceptions a year. A three-year starter of incredible consistency on these fronts. Henigan was part of Memphis’ team that took home the First Responder Bowl last year and has been bowl-eligible in each of his three years as part of a very solid collegiate career that he is forging for himself. Henigan is the epitome of a solid, competent college QB, who will likely never make a career in the NFL but will have some excellent memories to look back on from his college days.

On the other side of this one will be first-year starter, Redshirt Freshman, Rocco Brecht who took over from last year’s starter, Hunter Dekkers before the season due to Dekkers’ legal issues.

Brecht has led the programme well considering his inexperience, and that he likely wasn’t expecting to start this year. Brecht has 20 passing touchdowns to 8 interceptions, as well as adding three scores on the ground from short yardage.

Adding a bowl game victory to his CV this early on in his career will be a nice touch and give Iowa State’s young passer a lot to build on for the rest of his time in Ames.

Prospects to watch…

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Blake Watson, Running Back – Watson is a burly and brutal runner who is thickly built and has a nose for the end zone. After beginning his college career with the Old Dominion Monarchs, before the product from Queens, New York, transferred to Memphis. Even with the step up in competition, his performance increased to the point where he scored 14 times on the ground and rushed for over 1,000 yards this year. Both of these numbers were career highs. Watson is also a capable receiver and added over 450 yards and another 3 touchdowns through the air.

Josh Ellison, Interior Defensive Line – Ellison’s journey through college football has led him through Blinn Community College in the JuCo ranks, Oklahoma, and now Memphis. Never a huge stats stuffer, but the 6’3 300 lbs defensive tackle has made his presence felt as a run stuffer. Ellison is a controlling presence at the point of attack. 

Iowa State

T.J Tampa, Corner – Tampa has the length, and ruggedness to play in the run game that NFL Defensive Coordinators covet. Tampa also has good ball production to go along with it with 19 career pass deflections and three interceptions, so he has the ideal combination of traits that could make him an early selection in April.


Well, I won’t go so far as to say that this one will quite make it to 108 points, but it feels like both of these teams can keep the scoreboard operators busy. Plus, there’s not a whole host of withdrawals from the game from either team, so let’s say Iowa State takes this year’s Liberty Bowl, but it’ll be an entertaining one.

Memphis 41 – 51 Iowa State

Lee Wakefield