When you’re invited to play a bowl game against a nationally-ranked team in its home city and home stadium, you know there must be 20 Fun Facts about the situation.
Voila! Here they are for Iowa State’s Liberty Bowl game against Memphis Saturday:
1. This is Iowa State’s third Liberty Bowl. It, somehow, is Memphis’ first.
2. After being 17-184-2 all-time against ranked teams before this season, Iowa State is 2-1 against them this season. Memphis is ranked 20th. It played two games against ranked teams (UCF twice), and lost both.
3. Iowa State, Auburn and Ohio State are the only teams in the nation with two wins over top-five teams.
4. Memphis’ average home attendance this season is 33,307, and had crowds of 17,989 to see Tulane and 10,263 for ULM. Iowa State, meanwhile, set a season attendance record with a 57,931 average, and had three sellouts. The Liberty Bowl is sold out. Its seating capacity is 57,266.
5. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson has thrown for 68 touchdowns and 7,667 yards in two seasons.
6. Iowa State is the first FBS team to have gone through a regular season with no lost fumbles. The FBS record for fewest lost fumbles in a season is one, set by Bowling Green in 1996, Miami (Ohio) in 1998, and Northern Illinois in 2004.
7. Memphis sophomore Tony Pollard is tied with ULM’s Marcus Green for the most kickoff returns for touchdowns this season with four. Pollard returned two kickoffs for scores as a freshman. The NCAA record for a career is seven.
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8. Memphis is unbeaten at home for the first time since it began playing its games in the Liberty Bowl stadium in 1965.
9. Dan Lanning is Memphis’ inside linebackers coach. He played linebacker at William Jewell College. Joel Lanning is Iowa State’s starting inside linebacker. “So impressive,” Memphis defensive coordinator Chris Ball said, “that Coach Lanning, our linebackers coach, said that he’s related to him. He’s not.”
10. Joel Lanning is the first FBS player to have a quarterback sack, interception, fumble recovery, passing touchdown and rushing touchdown in the same season since Utah’s Eric Weddle in 2006. Weddle, a Baltimore Ravens safety, is in his 11th NFL season.
11. Memphis is 122nd in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. Three Big 12 teams — Texas Tech, Kansas and Kansas State — are worse.
12. Iowa State is 3-9 in bowls. Of teams that have played 10 or more bowls before Friday, only Northwestern (3-10) had a worse record.
13. Memphis is in the American Athletic Conference, which is 5-5 against Power Five conference teams in bowls over the last four years.
14. Iowa State senior safety Reggie Wilkerson was on the Georgia team that beat TCU in last year’s Liberty Bowl.
15. Memphis played in the 1956 Burley Bowl, beating East Tennessee State 32-12 in the Thanksgiving game in Johnson City, Tenn. The name of the bowl came from Burley tobacco.
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16. Tom III is Memphis’ live mascot. He is a bengal tiger, and travels with a sheriff patrol escort.
17. The Liberty Bowl moved to Memphis in 1965. It originated in Philadelphia in 1959 and was plagued by cold weather. The 1964 edition was moved to the Atlantic City Convention Center and was the first major bowl game played indoors. The playing surface was a 4-inch-thick grass surface with two inches of burlap underneath it on top of concrete.
18. The Liberty Bowl stadium has been the home of the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League, the Memphis Rogues of the North American Soccer League, the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League, the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League, and the Memphis Maniax of the XFL.
19. The Rolling Stones performed at the Liberty Bowl in 1975 and 1994. Memphis police had threatened to arrest them if they played “Star Star,” a song with rough language, at the 1975 show. They did, anyway, and there was no arrest.
20. The Liberty Bowl stadium is located on South Hollywood Street. The Hollywood Cafe in nearby Robinsonville, Miss., is where the deep-fried pickle reportedly was born. It is fried in beer batter with cayenne pepper and chili powder.