The second bowl game of the day will feature the #23 ranked Liberty Flames and the MAC Champion Toledo Rockets. We’ll be breaking down this exciting match-up before getting into who I’ll be backing in this one.
After a stellar 8-1 start to the season, the Liberty Flames went on to lose three straight games to finish the regular season with an 8-4 record. Injuries did some damage to the Flames late in the season, but the time between their last regular season game and today has allowed a few key players to get healthy, including both first and second-string quarterbacks.
The Flames falling apart at the end of the season certainly can be blamed on the injuries, but it can also be blamed on former head coach Hugh Freeze’s name being thrown around in the coaching carousel. Freeze did a take job elsewhere, so the Flames and their offense which averaged 408.8 yards per game, can focus on the task at hand without distractions.
One player who did not get fully healthy for the Flames was their leading running back Dae Dae Hunter. Liberty relied heavily on their run game, averaging 40.4 rushing attempts per game, so it’ll be up to TJ Green and Shedro Louis to take the bulk of those carries.
Toledo not only enters today as MAC conference champions, but they are also healthy and have been barely affected by transfer portal departures. Starting quarterback Dequan Finn battled injury all season but was able to play in the conference championship game and will be good to go today. Despite the injury issues, the Rockets quarterback was able to throw for 2,132 yards, along with 22 touchdown passes and eight rushing touchdowns.
The Rockets' offense averaged 31.7 points per game and led the MAC conference in touchdowns. On the defensive side, the Rockets managed to hold opponents to just 195.3 passing yards per game but still allowed an average of 27.7 points per game.
I’ll be targeting the point total in this one, as my best bet is the Over of 53. The Flames allowed a combined 108 points in their last three games of the season, and they lost their best linebacker Ahmad Walker to the transfer portal, so Dequan Finn and the Rockets' offense have a real chance at having a field day on offense.
Liberty played against a dual-threat quarterback in their last game of the season, and they allowed him to throw for 214 yards, three passing touchdowns, 125 rushing yards, and three rushing touchdowns. The Flames allowed an average of 149.3 rushing yards a game this season and will now face a Toledo offense that ran the ball an average of 39.9 times a game.
Offensively the Flames are in good hands with either Kaidon Salter or Charlie Brewer at quarterback, and leading receiver Demario Douglas has the chance to expose the Rockets' secondary. The last time Toledo’s defense faced a receiver like Douglas, they allowed him to go for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither team has shied away from offensive shootouts this season, and I think this one is heading in that direction.