December 30, 2012: Scene from the parade on Beale Street a day before the 2012 Liberty Bowl. Will ISU fans overwhelm Memphis again for an underwhelming bowl assignment?
Once Iowa State got bowl-eligible this season, hopes were high. A bowl is better than no bowl, or at least theoretically so, and there was a chance to play somewhere warm for the second time in a decade. There was a good chance of a power-conference bowl opponent for the first time since 2009 and the second time in seven bowls, or third if you count 2011 Rutgers in the Big East.
But instead, it’s the worst-case bowl scenario: A return to the Liberty Bowl playing essentially a road game against Memphis. Memphis was last seen lighting up the scoreboard in a double-OT loss to newly named Nebraska
governor corn god heartthrob Scott Frost. This is the second time ISU will play a lower-tier bowl game against the local team, after the 2002 Humanitarian bowl in Boise, or third if you count playing Rutgers at Yankee Stadium.
Am I being overly critical? Entirely possibly! But when multiple sites projected us in Florida, a state ISU has never played a bowl game in, against Notre Dame, a team ISU has never played, I feel let down.
The build-up to the 2012 Liberty Bowl was big. Cyclones flooded Beale Street. The gnawing disappointment of playing a non-power opponent — in a rematch, at that — was staved off until about the second quarter. Then Iowa State proceeded to roll over and die in the cold — just like the previous year in the Pinstripe Bowl, except now it was also raining.
And speaking of bowl games in cold places…
(This will be the fourth postseason event in a year putting the Hawkeyes in New York City, following last season’s men’s NCAA basketball and wrestling tournaments and next season’s Big Ten tournament.)
Both teams in the state of Iowa beat their conference champions and were rewarded in ways barely considered rewarding. The lessons are, don’t let Kansas State run a 2-minute drill on you, and don’t lose to Purdue on Senior Day.
ISU still has a chance to have its second-best season in 40 years. Let’s not lose sight of that. Go Cyclones.