Liberty Bowl: Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

Kickoff: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Forecast: Light rain late, increasing clouds. Game-time temperature -- high 30s.

Spread: Iowa State by 1

Watchability: If you like sequels, this game is made for you, as these teams met in their season openers on Sept. 1. That day, Iowa State -- a slight underdog going into the game -- came away with a 38-23 win. But this one won't be played in the friendly confines of Jack Trice Stadium -- and Tulsa has gained the confidence that comes with winning the Conference USA championship.

Shining stars: Iowa State -- QB Sam Richardson. One of the wild cards in this game will be the play of the freshman who did not play for the Cyclones in the teams' first meeting. He took over the starting job Nov. 17 against Kansas and threw for 412 yards and seven touchdowns without a pick in the last two games of the season. He can also run, adding 187 yards on 31 carries in that span. Tulsa -- RB Trey Watts. The junior powers the nation's No. 11 rushing offense and finished the season strong, with performances of 122 and 134 yards in his final three outings -- the latter coming in the Conference USA championship win over Central Florida. He averaged 5.95 yards per carry. Watts is also a dangerous return man, ranking No. 8 nationally in kickoff return yardage (29.59 per return) and No. 43 in punt return yardage (7.70 per attempt).

Magic number for Iowa State: 24. Under coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones are 21-1 when holding teams to fewer than 24 points and 3-25 in games in which they allow 24 or more. True to form, Tulsa only scored 23 in the the first meeting between these teams.

Magic number for Tulsa: 2 or more. In all three of the Golden Hurricane's losses, its players had issues holding onto the ball. Tulsa fumbled four times each against Iowa State and Arkansas -- being fortunate to only lose one in each game -- and lost both of its two fumbles in a defeat at SMU late in the season.

3 keys to an Iowa State win:

  • Get production from the ground game. In the first meeting, the Cyclones rushed for 160 yards to equal Tulsa's total. RB Shontrelle Johnson ran for 120 yards on only 18 carries.
  • Force turnovers. Iowa State picked off Tulsa QB Cody Green twice in the first meeting and recovered a fumble. As a result, ISU -- a team hardly known for uptempo offense -- ran 90 plays.
  • Keep Tulsa's defense honest. The Cyclones started QB Steele Jantz for their opener, and while he struggled for much of the season, he fared well against the Golden Hurricane, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Richardson must do enough through the air to keep Tulsa from loading the box on defense.

3 keys to a Tulsa win:

  • Control the ball. Given Tulsa's proficiency on the ground, it was surprising to see the Cyclones win the time of possession battle by almost five minutes in the first meeting. That needs to change this time around if the Golden Hurricane expects a different result.
  • Make Richardson win with his arm. He hasn't proven he can do so on a consistent basis yet, as his 23 of 27 performance in his first start was against lowly Kansas. He was only 13 of 31 for 162 yards in ISU's regular-season finale against West Virginia's pass defense, which finished as one of the nation's worst.
  • Get ISU in unfavorable down-and-distance situations. This ties in with the previous point, but making Richardson pass to win will be important to for Tulsa. One way to do that? Sacks and tackles for loss, which are both areas where the Golden Hurricane excels. Tulsa is No. 3 nationally in sacks (3.69 per game) and No. 4 in tackles for loss (8.0 pg).

Prediction: Tulsa 28, Iowa State 27

For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).