Liberty vs


at Boca Raton FL
Tue, Dec 20
4:30 PM Pacific
Rotation: 223
Odds: Toledo -3.5, Total: 54

Game Analysis

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Lean – Under (53.5) – Toledo (-3.5)  25   Liberty  22

It’s tough say what you’ll get from Liberty, who completely collapsed down the stretch when rumors that their head coach would leave the program surfaced. The Flames closed the season with 3 consecutive losses as double-digit favorites, including an embarrassing 14-49 loss as a 24 point home favorite to a pathetic New Mexico State team after those rumors of Hugh Freeze going to Auburn started. If Liberty players care about this game and have given a good effort in preparing for it under their interim coach then and outright win would not be a surprise, as the Flames rated higher in my ratings than Toledo until that final game in which they failed to cover the spread by 59 points while being outgained 4.5 yppl to 6.8 yppl.

Liberty’s offense was very good early in the season when Kaidon Salter was behind center but Salter missed a month due to injury and hasn’t regained his form (just 4.7 yppp the last two games). Johnathan Bennett, who took over as the starter when Salter was injured, has been 1.0 yards per pass play below average from week 4 on, which excludes the 14 yards on 24 pass plays off the bench in the first 3 games. Opening day starter Charlie Brewer, who was injured early in week 1, has also returned but he managed just 33 yards on 10 pass plays in his return to action against New Mexico State’s horrible defense. All 3 quarterbacks are healthy and all 3 might play. The Flames are best with Salter at quarterback but I’ll just use the team’s overall rating since it’s unclear which quarterback will start.

Liberty’s offense finished the season at 0.4 yards per play worse than average (5.8 yppl against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl) but that unit rates at -0.6 yppl without injured star running back Dae Dae Hunter, who ran for 854 yards at 6.6 ypr in 9 games before getting hurt (his backups combine for just 4.6 ypr). Liberty greatly increased their offensive pace of play over the final 3 games, as they went from having an average pace (about 2.3 plays per minute of possession) to averaging 2.9 plays per minute. Given that they lost all 3 of those games with the offense performing worse than normal it’s certainly possible that they scrap the up-tempo idea and go back to being a normal paced team. If that’s the case then this game is very likely to go under the total, but I don’t want to make a bet based on that assumption so I’ll project a higher pace than the Flames’ season pace for this game.

It won’t be easy to move the ball against a Toledo defense that’s been 0.3 yppl better than average this season (4.8 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppl) and they were better than the 25.5 points per game that they allowed, as a team giving up only 4.8 yppl should allow just 4.5 points per red zone opportunity, which is much lower than the 5.45 PPRZ that Toledo gave up this season( a difference of 2.8 points per game). Most of that is likely due to variance, as Toledo’s defense didn’t have an issue defending in the red zone the previous two seasons with the same defensive coordinator. The math projects just 361 yards at 4.8 yppl for Liberty, although that would go up a bit if Salter plays the entire game (he was 0.5 yppp better than the team’s pass rating).

Toledo is an overrated offensive team, as the 32.1 points per game that the Rockets scored came against a schedule of mostly bad defensive teams and averaging 5.4 points per red zone opportunity was on the high end of what would be expected from a team averaging a mediocre 5.8 yppl. If Toledo’s red zone efficiency had been what is projected based on their stats (i.e. 4.9 PPRZ) then they would have scored 2.2 points fewer per game and it’s unlikely that the Rockets continue to be as efficient near the end zone as they’ve been this season.

Liberty’s defense  was very good most of the season and they still rate at 0.3 yppl better than average (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.4 yppl against an average defense) even after giving up 6.8 yppl to a horrible New Mexico State offense (4.6 yppl expected on the road against an average defense). It seems to me that Liberty just wasn’t focused on that game with the rumors of coach Freeze leaving and prior to that game the Flames’ defense was 0.5 yppl better than average. I’ll keep that New Mexico State game in the math since it’s possible that they still don’t play up to their potential in this game, and being without LB Ahmad Walker (transfer), who had 11 total tackles for loss and was the #3 tackler, adds about a point per game. Even with that adjustment I still project Toledo to average just 4.9 yppl in this game after adjusting for the bad weather (80% chance of rain throughout the game and some wind).

This was an interesting game to handicap and I had to make some assumptions. First, I’ll assume that Liberty has regrouped and the remaining players are focused on this game after dropping 3 straight as huge favorites to end the regular season (teams off 3 or more losses are 57% ATS in bowl games since 1980). And, since my math really likes the under here, I’ll have to assume that Liberty will continue to play at a very fast pace offensively, as they did in their final 3 games, even though there is a good chance that they scrap that idea due to how miserable their offense was in those final 3 games.

With Liberty playing as fast as they have over their last 3 games I would project 50 total points in this game with -2.6 points for the bad weather included. The total is higher than it should be in part because Toledo’s red zone scoring efficiency was much higher than projected on both offense and defense. The difference between the red zone efficiency in Toledo’s games this season and what would be expected from their statistics, resulted in 5.0 more total points per game being scored in their games this season than the stat would project. Part of that difference is in the line and has created value on the under.

I have projected a few points below 50 points because I think there is a good chance that Liberty scraps their up tempo offense and goes back to playing at an average pace and because Liberty’s defense would be 0.2 yppl better if I exclude that final game outlier against New Mexico State. If the Flames play at the pace of their first 9 games and I exclude that defensive outlier then the math would project just 44.6 total points (with the weather included). I’ll settle on something in between and lean with the under at 52 points or higher.

As far as the side goes, my first instinct was that Liberty had given up on the season. However, after more reading about the team, it appears as if they’re intent on atoning for their bad finish and All-American senior DL Durrell Johnson (22.5 total tackles for loss) has decided to play in this game to help his fellow seniors go out with a win. He could have easily decided to opt out to prepare for the NFL draft and the fact that he’s decided to play made me reconsider my stance that the Flames would be give a full effort. The math, even with the New Mexico State debacle included, favors Toledo by just 2.9 points, and taking that game out would lead to a prediction of Liberty by 0.3 points. But, I’ll pass on the side.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Liberty
  • Toledo


  • Run Plays 35.6 34.0
  • Run Yards 201.4 170.3
  • YPRP 5.7 5.0


  • Pass Comp 18.2 17.7
  • Pass Att 31.1 30.3
  • Comp % 58.5% 58.4%
  • Pass Yards 223.8 201.3
  • Sacks 3.3 3.4
  • Sack Yards 17.6 24.9
  • Sack % 9.7% 10.2%
  • Pass Plays 34.4 33.7
  • Net Pass Yards 206.3 176.3
  • YPPP 6.0 5.2


  • Total Plays 70.0 67.7
  • Total Yards 407.7 346.6
  • YPPL 5.8 5.1


  • Int 1.3 1.2
  • Int % 4.0% 3.9%
  • Fumbles 0.9 0.8
  • Turnovers 2.2 1.9
  • Points 28.3 24.9
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