Liberty managed to scrap together a decent showing against Campbell (which was basically the college football equivalent of a pre-season warm-up game). This next matchup against Troy, however, is no warmup game, as the season starts for real Saturday, September 11th. Unlike Liberty, Troy managed to blow their week one FCS opponent out of the water and the Flames will face an offense that managed 5 rushing touchdowns and threw for over 300 yards. Troy is still smarting from that close 2018 loss to the Flames in Lynchburg and will be looking to repay the favor this weekend. If Liberty wants to prove that they are a team that deserves national recognition and a spot in the Top 25, they are going to have to overcome a potential trap game on the road against the Trojans of Troy Alabama.


Last week Liberty was clearly limiting its star player Malik Willis and the offense overall as it looked to avoid injuries and giving too much away to Troy and the other tougher tests on Liberty’s schedule down the road. The offense certainly felt the toll of the reduced playbook, as LU saw three drives in a row stall out short of the endzone. It took Willis’ legs to spark the Flames once again and propel them to a nice 48-7 win over Campbell.

 I expect Liberty back on track this week as they pull out all the stops to light up the Troy defense and the scoreboard, and honestly, that’s exactly what Liberty needs to do. Liberty won’t truly get a chance to prove themselves against top tier opponents until late in the football season, but if we’ve learned anything from last year, where and how you start determines what your ceiling is. If Liberty wants to have a shot of rising in the Top 25 to a point where they can earn a bowl matchup against a big league opponent vs just another Cure Bowl bid, they need to impress early. Last season, Liberty’s early struggles and close games against below-average opposition severely impacted how the media and the pollsters viewed Liberty and their record overall. This is a very, very good Liberty team with the deepest roster they have ever had, its time, in Hugh Freeze’s third season, to show the world what these Liberty Flames bring to the table.


Liberty’s entire team seemed to be shaking off rust in the week one matchup but especially out of form was the defense. Liberty’s defense managed only 4 QB hurries and not a single sack against an undersized FCS offensive line. Additionally, the defense gave up 183 yards and a touchdown through the air, while not forcing a single turnover. That might not seem significant in the grand scheme of things, but when you consider that Liberty allowed 3 passing plays of over 20 yards and a 40-yard touchdown pass it becomes a little more worrying.

Liberty will be facing a much more dynamic passing attack in the form of Troy QB Taylor Powell who threw for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns in just 3 quarters of action last week. The defensive line definitely needs to apply more pressure on the QB, but even when Liberty got through on the pass rush, Campbell’s QB still was able to get the ball off several times to wide-open receivers. Liberty’s defense was able to practice an effective bend but don’t break strategy against Campbell but that will be harder to do against Troy’s efficient offensive attack (303 yards passing and 164 yards rushing in week one). Last season, the one real weak spot of this Flames team for the first half of the season at least was the secondary which dramatically improved as the year went on. Hopefully, it doesn’t take Liberty’s defense quite as long to get back on track because this year’s schedule is far less forgiving than 2020’s.


Liberty’s special teams performance last week was abysmal with two punts under 30 yards (and not in situations where a short punt was desired), questionable decision making in the return game and a missed field goal and PAT. All of this coming from a unit that I thought was one of the most improved parts of the Flames football team last season. Barbir, who had struggled from midrange last season, finished the year going 3/3 in the win over Coastal Carolina (including an all-important game-winning kick in overtime), Flames’ punter Aidan Alves had his best season in his career last year, averaging 41.8 yards per kick with a long of 53, and Demario Douglas played well as a returner for the Flames in 2020 with 166 return yards and a touchdown. Yet, all three players struggled in the first game out the gate (Douglas’ strong receiving output notwithstanding). If Liberty wants to be competitive and prove to the nation that last season was not a fluke, they are going to need a much better performance out of their special teams unit going forward, especially in the kicking game. 


I was in the stands the last time Liberty beat Troy and it was a glorious moment. The game came down to the wire with Liberty scoring a TD to take the lead and then using a trick play to get the two-point conversion before the defense held Troy back on two ensuing drives. It was a thrilling game that was always in the balance. While all of us had hoped for a win, none of us truly expected one after a disappointing 2-3 start to Liberty’s first season in the FBS and facing a Troy team with a 5-1 record and a win against Nebraska. Things feel much different this time. Liberty is coming off an incredible 10-1 season, has a head coach that inspires confidence in the fan base, and a QB who is nothing short of miraculous. Add to this the fact that Troy is coming off two consecutive 5 win seasons and is nowhere near the team that went 10-3 in 2018. ESPN may have Liberty listed as underdogs, but Vegas doesn’t agree as Liberty is favored by 4 and it just feels like this could get out of hand quickly. If Liberty can pull together a big win in this matchup, it would certainly turn some heads across the college football landscape and get more eyes on the Flames. 

A lot of people are doubting the Flames as always after a less than stellar showing against Campbell, but I think that the offense will look radically different on Saturday and the defense will be improved enough to hold this Troy Trojan attack in check. I’ll be in the stands once again as I travel to my first Liberty game since 2019 and I’ll be looking for a Flames’ blowout this time. Hope to see Flames Nation well represented! See you at the game!

SCORE PREDICTION: Liberty 49 vs Troy 30

Written by Mr. Exclamation Point