Big 12: Trey Watts


It was a rainy afternoon in Memphis, Tenn., but Tulsa won this rematch with Iowa State in pretty convincing fashion. The Golden Hurricane flipped the script from the teams' first meeting of the season in September, when Tulsa raced to a 16-7 lead after one quarter before being dominated from that point on. This time around, Iowa State grabbed a 17-7 lead after the first quarter before Tulsa took over and clearly looked like the better team.

The loss for the Cyclones dropped the Big 12 to 3-3 in its bowls and improved Conference USA to 4-1 for the second consecutive season.

Let's get to some instant analysis.

It was over when: Tulsa capitalized on an Iowa State turnover with a 1-yard touchdown from Alex Singleton with 1:50 to play in the third quarter. Iowa State scored 17 points in the first quarter (including an interception returned for a touchdown by Jeremy Reeves), but the offense was shut out over the final three quarters. With a double-digit lead and a running game that rolled over Iowa State for most of the game, there was no coming back for the Cyclones.

Game ball goes to: Tulsa running back Trey Watts. The son of Oklahoma quarterback great J.C. Watts, Trey had another big game against the Cyclones but got the win this time with 149 yards on 25 carries. He didn't score, but he did break the Golden Hurricane's longest play from scrimmage all day, a 48-yard run that set up a touchdown. He ran hard and gave the Iowa State defense fits when it tried to bring him down.

Stat of the game: Tulsa rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns on 58 carries. That was the story. Iowa State looked outmanned and Tulsa simply looked like the better, more physical team. It proved it on both sides of the ball and in the trenches with a strong pass rush and a great performance from the offensive line. That's how you win games.

Second-guessing: Cleyon Laing's self-control. The senior defensive lineman was flagged for a cheap shot late after Iowa State made a third-down stop deep in its own territory while trailing 21-17. Instead of settling for a field goal, Tulsa eventually scored a touchdown on the drive. Coach Paul Rhoads gave Laing a pretty intense lecture after he came to the sidelines, and it was deserved. Not only was it a cheap play, but it was one of the game's biggest plays -- and it never should have happened.

What Iowa State learned: It still has a quarterback problem on its hands, but the offense has other issues too. Sam Richardson showed some promise to close the season, but after a strong first quarter, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ernst Brun Jr., he struggled to establish much of anything. Outside of that Brun touchdown, Richardson was just 9-of-20 for 60 yards and an interception. Iowa State didn't have a first down in the third quarter and Brun was benched for Steele Jantz, just as Jared Barnett was in last year's Pinstripe Bowl. Jantz never engineered a comeback, turning it over twice in his final game as a Cyclone. Look for a competitive spring at the position between Richardson, Barnett and Grant Rohach.

What Tulsa learned: It has yet another coach who can win big. Winning the C-USA title was plenty of evidence, but the bowl game provided even more. Todd Graham and Steve Kragthorpe helped build the Golden Hurricane into one of the best non-AQ programs in the nation, and second-year coach Bill Blankenship looks very capable of continuing that tradition after an 11-win season. That tied Graham's 2008 team for the most wins in school history.

Pregame: AutoZone Liberty Bowl

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
11:00
AM ET
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) vs. Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 Conference USA)

WHO TO WATCH: Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein vs. Tulsa's three-headed monster at running back. The Golden Hurricane won their conference on the backs of Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton, who all topped at least 765 yards this season. Watts broke a 77-yard run and finished with 125 yards the first time these two played, but the other two were largely quiet. The problem for Iowa State? Klein's partner in crime, Jake Knott, won't be on the field after suffering a shoulder injury and undergoing surgery earlier this season.

WHAT TO WATCH: If either team can get its passing game rolling, it might win this one easily. There's been inconsistency on both parts, but Nebraska transfer Cody Green is the headline for the Golden Hurricane. Iowa State has started three different quarterbacks this season but landed on freshman Sam Richardson late in the season. He's showed promise, and Tulsa hasn't seen him, but senior Steele Jantz threw for 281 yards in the first matchup.

WHY TO WATCH: Is the second verse the same as the first or not? Tulsa dominated the first quarter of the season opener, racing to a 16-7 lead and looking like the clearly better team. Iowa State handled its business from that point forward. The Cyclones outscored the Golden Hurricane 24-0 over the next two quarters and earned a solid win over an eventual 10-win team to kick off the season. This is the Big 12's only bowl matchup against a non-AQ team, but Tulsa's a squad that knows a lot about winning games.

PREDICTION: Iowa State 27, Tulsa 21. Shontrelle Johnson rushed for 120 yards in the first game, but he's out with a knee injury this time. Still, we'll see James White and Jeff Woody perform admirably in support of Richardson. Josh Lenz hauls in a touchdown grab and tops 100 yards receiving, while the Cyclones prevent the Golden Hurricane from having a 100-yard rusher. Only four teams topped 24 points this season against Iowa State, and Tulsa will go 0-2 on trying to reach that mark.

A closer look: AutoZone Liberty Bowl

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
9:00
AM ET
As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.

When: Monday, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Iowa State: The Cyclones have made their mark in big-time upsets on an annual basis, it seems. Iowa State announced its intentions to make a bowl run with an upset win over then-No. 15 TCU on the road, though it was a wounded Frogs team without quarterback Casey Pachall. The Cyclones once again reached 3-0 in conference play with wins over Tulsa to open the season and rival Iowa in Iowa City for the first time in a decade. The Cyclones battled inconsistency at quarterback all season long, but Steele Jantz topped 400 yards of total offense and threw five touchdown passes in a win over Baylor that ultimately proved to be the difference in Iowa State's bowl run. The Cyclone clinched it this year with a four-touchdown win on the road against Kansas. It's not quite as dramatic as last year's double-overtime upset over No. 2 Oklahoma State, but it'll work. Another year, another unlikely bowl game for the Cyclones, who are one of nine Big 12 teams to reach the Big 12, but the only one to do so with a 6-6 record.

About Tulsa: Only one conference champion will face a Big 12 team in a bowl, and that's these Golden Hurricane. Tulsa beat UCF in overtime to capture the Conference USA title, and went 7-1 in league play with the only loss coming to SMU. The Golden Hurricane blew a lead in the opener on the road at Iowa State and narrowly lost at Arkansas, but finished undefeated at home at Skelly Stadium. That's an astounding four 10-win seasons in six years for Tulsa, which will try to reach 11 and avenge the loss to Iowa State.

Cyclones to watch: Two you won't be watching? The team's leading rusher, Shontrelle Johnson (knee) and arguably its best linebacker, Jake Knott (shoulder), who are done for the season. Still, A.J. Klein is an All-Big 12 first-teamer and James White is an experienced fill-in for Johnson, and both need big games for Iowa State to earn just the fourth bowl win in school history. Freshman quarterback Sam Richardson took over late and showed promise. The team's most talented receiver Josh Lenz, who caught six touchdowns among his 29 grabs for 430 yards this season. Safety Durrell Givens proved his worth as a big-play ballhawk, too. He's picked off three passes and forced four fumbles.

Golden Hurricane to watch: For Tulsa, it all starts with its three backs: Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton. Singleton racked up a crazy 21 rushing touchdowns, but the trio combined for 2,581 rushing yards this season to carry Tulsa to a league title. Nebraska transfer Cody Green, who Big 12 fans surely remember as a high-profile signee and one-time starter for the Huskers, threw for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, racking up 2,499 yards but completed just over 54 percent of his passes. Linebacker DeAundre Brown made 125 tackles, which would have led the Big 12, and added 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Iowa State would be well served to make sure to know where he is on every snap.

Did you know? Iowa State played in this bowl game just once: Exactly 40 years ago back in 1972. The Cyclones went for two points and the win against Georgia Tech, but the gamble failed, and Iowa State lost. The final score: 31-30. Sound familiar? That is pure insanity.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
9:43
PM ET
Iowa State Cyclones (6-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (10-3)

Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, Memphis, Tenn. (ESPN)

Iowa State take by SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: Big 12 Conference play was unkind to the Cyclones, who have won just two games since Oct. 6. They finished 3-6 in the conference and 6-6 overall.

Nonetheless, ISU has plenty of hope heading into bowl season with the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Richardson in its final two games. He was 36-of-58 for 412 yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions in the final two games.

Richardson has played with a confidence and poise that should make Cyclones fans excited about the future. The month of bowl practices will help his development, and a good performance in ISU's bowl game could give him the confidence to take his game to another level as a sophomore.

The Cyclones feature a solid defense which allowed 23.3 points per game this season, so their offensive success tends to make the difference between a win and a loss for ISU. It’s also the final game for linebacker A.J. Klein, who has 98 tackles this season and is two tackles away from recording the third 100-tackle season of his college career. ISU surely wants to send one of the best defensive players in school history out with a bowl win.




Tulsa take from RecruitingNation's Brandon Chatmon: Tulsa earned its AutoZone Liberty Bowl berth after winning their first Conference USA title since 2005. The Golden Hurricane won the Conference USA championship game, 33-27, over Central Florida in overtime on Saturday.

Tulsa hasn’t had one spectacular individual on offense this season yet the Golden Hurricane saw three different running backs rush for 765 yards or more in 2012. Running backs Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton helped TU average 240.2 rushing yards per game this season.

The Golden Hurricane won seven straight games after a 38-23 season-opening loss to Iowa State and rebounded from a disappointing 35-27 loss at SMU, which finished 6-6, before winning the C-USA title game.

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