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Two independent teams will square off here as the BYU Cougars host the Liberty Flames. Liberty has been having a solid season and enters this one at 6-3, while BYU sits at 4-4. Even though Liberty has the better record, oddsmakers have BYU as a three-score favorite for this one, which will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Liberty SurprisesLiberty made the jump to being an FBS college football team last season, and so far the transition has been going pretty well. For a school that was just playing at the FCS level two seasons ago, they've been surprisingly competitive. They went 6-6 last year, and had a few impressive efforts, and enter this one at 6-3. They appear well on their way to their first-ever bowl game, and they've been turning it on recently. After starting the year 0-2, they've now won six of their past seven games. Most recently, they blew out UMass by a score of 63-21. They also beat a very competent Buffalo team by 18 points.
Their first loss of the season came to Syracuse, who was ranked 22nd at the time, and the second loss was a road one to a very tough Louisiana team. I can't hold either of those against them, and they've been undeniably hot recently. Quarterback Stephen Calvert has been extremely efficient, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt while tossing 20 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He has been leaps and bounds better than he was last season, and it's clear what the difference is. Hugh Freeze is in his first season as head coach, and he's been doing an amazing job with the offense. Freeze used to be the coach at Ole Miss and was run out of town for off-field issues, but he's always been able to coach.
BYU Up And DownBYU football hasn't been in great shape the past few years. A normally reliable bowl team that would often sneak into the top 25 AP poll, they went just 4-9 in 2017. They rebounded a bit last season with a 6-6 regular-season record, and made a bowl game. So far this season they have been unable to break out of mediocrity, and they enter this one at 4-4. A puzzling team to follow all year long, they have some very disappointing losses while also picking up some amazing wins.
Just a few weeks ago they managed to beat Boise State, who was ranked 14th at the time. They also clobbered Utah State recently on the road in a key rivalry game. Coming off that emotional high of destroying Utah State in a massively important game, it's fair to wonder whether or not they will have a let down here. They're clearly capable of duds, as their loss to a very bad South Florida team demonstrated. Other than the Utah State game they haven't exactly been blowing opponents out, and their other three wins each came by only three points with two coming in overtime. The thing that would make me worry about laying this many points here is that BYU's offense isn't exactly explosive.
You're going to have to monitor BYU's quarterback situation throughout the week, as things are fluid right now. Normal starter Zach Wilson hasn't appeared in a game since late September, but it looks like he might be back for this one. No matter who plays I don't think it will make too much of a difference, as all three quarterbacks that have received run for the Cougars have looked somewhat similar. Whoever is under Center might not receive too much help from their ground game, as the Cougars average only 3.8 yards per carry as a team.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Cougars are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game
- 16-7 ATS in their last 23 road games
- 17-6-1 ATS in their last 24 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game
- 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games on grass
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I think this line is really inflated. BYU is not that good, and I think they're due for a letdown coming off their big win over Utah State. Liberty has won six of their past seven games, and they have a lot of momentum entering this one. Hugh Freeze is working wonders with this offense right now, and I think they'll be able to have some success against this overrated BYU defense.
Prediction: Liberty +17
Full-Game Total Pick
I am also playing the over here. I'm not scared of either of these defenses, especially Liberty's. Seemingly every game the Flames play in is a shootout, and there's been at least 78 total points scored in each of their past three games. Freeze loves to air the ball out, and he's not going to change up in this game. This one should be pretty high-scoring.