The serpentine twists and turns of the ever-popular Bowl Championship Series finally eased into a (slightly) less chaotic flow Sunday night, and from there, Iowa State learned its postseason travel destination.
The AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., it is — 40 years after the Johnny Majors-coached Cyclones lost a 31-30 thriller to Georgia Tech there.
"The reward of college football is the postseason," ISU coach Paul Rhoads. "And when I got the chance to share (the news) with our players they were elated beyond words."
And talk about history: The foe will be Conference USA champion Tulsa.
The same Golden Hurricane (10-3) that ISU beat 38-23 to open the season.
The same Tulsa team the Cyclones (6-6) are scheduled to face in week three of next season.
"That's a lot of competition against one team," Rhoads said. "It will be new ground."
Early returns prompted most professional prognosticators to project ISU to the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl, the lowest Big 12-aligned game, but Northern Illinois’ inclusion in the BCS, along with Oklahoma’s exclusion, sent the Cyclones careening into at-large territory.
"We knew there was a potential the Big 12 would end up having one team up (in the BCS), so good business is to make sure you've got a contingency plan," ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard said. "When coach Rhoads and I looked at the landscape and found out that the Liberty Bowl was going to be available because of the SEC tie-in, we jumped all over it and spent the last week working (Liberty Bowl executive director) Steve (Ehrhart) very hard on why Iowa State should be in the Liberty Bowl if that comes up. ... It looked pretty promising Saturday when Oklahoma and K-State won their games, and then the wheels kind of fell off in the Big Ten championship game and that kind of sent everything into disarray. So the last 24 hours has been a little touch and go, because the Liberty Bowl had to protect themselves, too. That's why I really want to say thanks to Steve and AutoZone because they stayed with us. They could have flinched and covered themselves to have a sure bet and they didn't do that. They stuck with Iowa State."
Memories of the Golden Hurricane haven't lingered much for the Cyclones, who overcame a 16-7 deficit to win that game 93 days ago.
"We're going to see a lot of new things," ISU linebacker A.J. Klein said. "Teams adjust and change their offenses throughout the year. We're just going to have to watch all the film. These couple weeks off are good for us."
Tulsa outlasted Central Florida 33-27 in overtime Saturday to secure C-USA’s automatic berth in the Liberty Bowl.
The Cyclones found out they'd be playing them again while lifting weights.
"(Coach Rhoads) called everybody up in the weight room and told us," Klein said. "Kind of a relief to know where we're going and playing an opponent we've already played and seen."
So cue the rematch — and the accompanying extra practices along with something to get excited about.
"It's a great bowl," said wide receiver Josh Lenz. "We've all been looking at all the bowls, the possibilities and everything."
What a difference a week makes.
In the aftermath of the West Virginia loss, Cyclone players were somber, but their general, yet pointed post-game vows stand.
“You can bet we’ll come out with some fire,” quarterback Sam Richardson said then about the postseason.
And?“We’ve gotta win it,” center Tom Farniok added.