It’s that time again!  That means it’s season prediction time for the ASOR staff.

Zach McLearen

An extra week of rest and preparation for the Flames will make this a toss-up, but it’s hard to pick the Flames in this one. WKU has the better team and home field advantage (whatever that may be), and one could even argue having already played a game will play to the Hilltopper’s advantage.

Western Kentucky 20, Liberty 13

This game has potential to be a good one. The Panthers are year in and year out a competitive team that usually makes a bowl game.The Flames will come back to Lynchburg hungry for their first win. Barring any major injuries,  I think they win a close one over the Panthers in week 2.

Liberty 27, FIU 24

Week 3 provides us with some ASUN football if you will, as the FCS Lions come to town. This will be UNA’s first game of the season, which means they will have been able to scout the Flames for a few weeks. Despite that advantage, the Flames are the much better team, and should have an easy victory.

Liberty 42, UNA 10

Another game that will be important to win if the Flames want to become bowl eligible is against the ULM Warhawks. ULM is replacing their star QB and will have to improve on last year’s subpar defense. This game is very winnable for the Flames, but could easily be a game they lose as well. I got the Flames getting the job done and improving to 3-1.

Liberty 31, ULM 24

Syracuse is the first of three ACC teams the Flames will face this season. The only team on this year’s schedule that the Flames played last season, Liberty will look to avenge Syracuse on the loss the Orange handed them week one in 2019. While I think this year’s game will be much more competitive and this is Liberty’s best chance at beating an ACC school, I think the Orange will ultimately prevail.

Syracuse 21, Liberty 17

Southern Miss is an intriguing team. After their first game this season, their head coach decided to resign after a poor performance by the Golden Eagles. Southern’s QB Jack Abraham will probably be one of the best QBs the Flames will face this season. In another tossup game for Liberty I have the Flames defeating Hugh Freeze’s alma mater.

Liberty 38, Southern Miss 31

This will likely be the Flames toughest test all season. Virginia Tech is ranked by most polls in the top 25, and is one of the most experienced teams in the nation. If the Hokies can stay healthy, they should be in full stride by November as well. While I would love nothing more than to see Liberty defeat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, the Hokies should win this one.

Virginia Tech 28, Liberty 17

The NCAA has allowed a one-year rule where two FCS wins can count towards bowl eligibility. This plays to the Flames advantage since they will face two FCS opponents this season. The Flames can’t afford to lose this one and I don’t think they will. Liberty by a landslide in week 8.

Liberty 48, Western Carolina 17

After coming off a disappointing season after a hot start, pre-season projections are all over the place for the Wolfpack. By this point we will know the caliber of teams the Flames will face in Raleigh. While the Flames should have a shot at winning this game, for now it’s safe to bet on a Wolfpack victory.

NC State 38, Liberty 20

The Flames are facing an old Big South rival in Coastal Carolina in the final week of the season. Coastal has been an FBS member just a year longer than the Flames and are still seeking their first bowl berth. It very well may come down to this game for both teams on who gets to play in a bowl game. The Flames will have a bye week before this game, giving them a chance to rest and prepare. I have the Flames defeating their rival in the final week and securing a second straight winning season.

Liberty 28, Coastal Carolina 24

Record Projection: 6-4

Kevin Gora

Liberty will be starting their season in Kentucky as they play Western Kentucky. WKU lost to Louisville this past Saturday, but do not let their record think it will be an easy win for Liberty. WKU’s defense is solid as they managed to get 10 tackles for loss and one sack against a stout Louisville offensive line. This will be a tough matchup for Liberty’s o-line, as they have three out of their five starters returning from last year. It will be interesting to see how redshirt junior QB Malik Willis does in his first start as a Flame. Willis will add a whole new facet to Head Coach Hugh Freeze’s offense. It seems that the quarterback competition was close between Willis and grad transfer Chris Ferguson, if Willis is struggling in this game, do not be surprised to see Ferguson get some reps in at quarterback. WKU will be going into this game with the upper hand, as they already have a game under their belt.

Western Kentucky 28, Liberty 14

Liberty will be going into game two with a better understanding of what this team is capable of and what they need to work on. Florida International will not have the liberty of this knowledge for their own team, due to the fact, they have not played a single game in 2020 up to this point. FIU is in a similar boat as Liberty this year, they also have a new  QB starting for them this year, redshirt junior Kaylan Wiggins. If Liberty’s defense can shut down Wiggins in the air and running, that will give way for Liberty to win. Games like these are going to be confidence builders as Willis gets ore settled in with Liberty’s offense.

Liberty 36, FIU 17

This is another game Liberty will be going into where their opponent is playing them for their first game of the season. Expect Liberty to play better than North Alabama. With practically nothing to play for, that can make a difference in UNA’s efforts to win. Another game that will allow for Liberty to gain traction playing as a team.

Liberty 48, UNA 24

By the time Liberty plays UL Monroe, they will have four games under their belt. Once you get to almost midway through the season that will not matter as much, but if Liberty is struggling to get their footing early in the season, this can be a game that is Liberty’s to lose. In ULM’s first game they gave up 37 points in a loss to Army. ESPN gives Liberty a 71.4% chance of winning.

Liberty 33, ULM 28

This is where the season will really start to become interesting with a string of tough matchups, and Syracuse has first on that list for Liberty. Last year Syracuse was Liberty’s home opener and they managed to give Liberty a rude awakening. Syracuse beat Liberty 24-0 in a shutout at Williams Stadium last year. This year they will be meeting in Syracuse as this is the second of a three-game agreement. If Liberty can get after their porous offensive line and get after their quarterback, then that can make the game interesting.

Syracuse 27, Liberty 13

This will be one of the closest matchups for Liberty. ESPN is predicting Liberty barely edges out Southern Mississippi with a 50.2% chance of winning. Southern Miss is big on their offensive capabilities as they have a very efficient quarterback in senior Jack Abraham. They also have Frank Gore Jr. who has built up some steam because he is the son of NFL veteran Frank Gore. Their defense was lackluster on getting to the quarterback in their lone game against South Alabama. If USM keeps losing to teams they should beat, then Liberty has a good chance at beating them.

Liberty 48, Southern Miss 21

Virginia Tech is going to expect to win this game as they should. Currently VT is ranked #20 in the AP Top 25. The last time Liberty played VT was in 2016 and the final score was 36-13 with VT winning. However, Liberty is not the same team they were in 2016 and they have grown by leaps and bounds. If Liberty can get out to a strong start and stay true to that strong start, that can give them room to win the game. As of right now, I am expecting Liberty to not be able to pull this one out.

Virginia Tech 31, Liberty 24

This game is going to be one of those games that Liberty should win as this will be their second FCS game of the year. It should be one of their easiest games of the year. If they beat North Alabama earlier in the season and win against Western Carolina here, that can help them with that bid to get into another bowl game this year as the NCAA is allowing two FCS wins to count towards bowl eligibility.

Liberty 52, Western Carolina 28

Last year NC State was a dumpster fire in the ACC after winning only four games in 2019. Even though NC State was bad last year they managed to beat Syracuse, 16-10. That was the only game that crossed paths between Liberty and the Wolfpack. NC State will have Devin Leary returning for his sophomore season. They had a solid run game with all of their lead runners returning. If Liberty’s defense can jam their backs at the line and force them to throw downfield, then that can give the Flames a favor towards winning the game. Leary only completed 48% of his passes and that can severely hold NC State back this year as well.

Liberty 17, NC State 7

This game will be interesting between two teams that recently joined the FBS. Coastal Carolina had a great start against Kansas as they had 318 total yards offensively and five sacks on defense in their first game of 2020. This will be Liberty’s last chance to make a bid for a bowl appearance, if they aren’t eligible already at this point. This might have to be a game Liberty can throw their way to a win, but CCU is no joke.

Coastal Carolina 42, Liberty 27

Record Projection: 6-4

Jon Manson

Western Kentucky is one of the better teams Liberty will face this season and could be one of the better G5 teams in the country. They have explosive weapons on offense and a lot of returning players on defense. The Flames need to keep it close early.

Western Kentucky 27, Liberty 14

This is a game that will be crucial to the Flames having a successful season. It’s a toss-up and will be the first game of the year for FIU. I’ll give the slight edge to Liberty thanks to them having one game under their belt while this will be the first for FIU.

Liberty 30, FIU 24

This should be an easy win for the Flames, but North Alabama will be playing with nothing to lose. It will also be the Lions’ first game of the season, so they are already game planning for the Flames. Liberty’s extra scholarships plus superior athleticism will be the difference.

Liberty 37, UNA 10

Liberty loves playing the Sun Belt since being spurned by the FBS conference. The Flames have beaten several Sun Belt teams and would love nothing more than to add Louisiana-Monroe to the list. I think by this point in the season, the offense should start to find its rhythm and the Flames could start clicking.

Liberty 31, ULM 21

Syracuse is the first of three ACC teams the Flames will face this season and they are the only team Liberty faced in 2019 that is also on the 2020 slate. The Orange’s offense looked anemic to open the season at North Carolina. This is a game Liberty could pull the upset, but the Flames would near to play nearly flawless to do so.

Syracuse 27, Liberty 21

So many storylines in this game as its the matchup against Hugh Freeze’s alma mater and a school that is looking for a new head coach already after Jay Hopson resigned following their week one loss to South Alabama. Of course, Freeze has been mentioned as a possibility. We don’t know how Southern Miss will respond to the coaching change early in the season, but Liberty will have the upper hand in this one.

Liberty 35, Southern Miss 31

Virginia Tech is the best team on Liberty’s schedule this season and could threaten to be a top 20 team. Hendon Hooker will be a tough quarterback for the Flames to corral. Liberty might be a couple more recruiting classes away from being able to compete against a team of that caliber.

Virginia Tech 38, Liberty 17

Another odd game against an FCS opponent where Western Carolina will not be playing until they face the Flames in November. Should be an easy win regardless for Liberty.

Liberty 45, Western Carolina 14

We still haven’t seen NC State play a game yet this season, as they are preparing to open their 2020 schedule this weekend against Wake Forest. They could end up being one of the more surprising teams in the ACC this year. Tough challenge for the Flames.

NC State 30, Liberty 17

It will be different facing the Chanticleers in early December and no conference implications. Coastal started the year with a win over Kansas this past week. This won’t be an easy game, but we’ll give the nod to the Flames.

Liberty 38, Coastal Carolina 31

Record Projection: 6-4

Brett Jones

This game will be closer than most people think. Despite the Hilltoppers’ poor defensive showing against Louisville, the defense figures to be the team’s strength. I like WKU in this one, but Liberty will make it competitive.

Western Kentucky 24, Liberty 17

This is a winnable game for Liberty. FIU graduated a number of starters from 2019, and the Panthers’ success will depend on how effective the team’s former role players are as starters. The Flames win this one with ease, and I think Joshua Mack has a big day.

Liberty 38, FIU 24

North Alabama is the first FCS team the Flames will face, and they’re coming off a 4-7 season. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Liberty wins this one handily.

Liberty 48, UNA 14

On defense, ULM can only improve from a dismal 2019 that saw the unit allow nearly 40 points per game. Most of the Warhawk secondary will return, highlighted by All-American corner Corey Straughter. The linebacker and defensive line corps will feature plenty of new faces, but again: the unit can’t be much worse than it was last year. The Flames offense will light up the scoreboard and put up another great performance.

Liberty 45, ULM 28

The Orange are probably the weakest ACC team Liberty will face in 2020, but nonetheless, the Orange are still an ACC team with recruiting advantages. Tommy DeVito returns at QB for Syracuse, and the Flames will know what to expect from him. The Orange hired new defensive coordinator Tony White, a former assistant at Arizona State. I’m willing to bet the Orange will have adjusted to his 3-3-5 scheme by this time in the year, but that remains to be seen. I do not think the Orange will shut out the Flames in 2020; and contrary to my previous prediction, I like Liberty in an upset win over Syracuse this year.

Liberty 24, Syracuse 20

Hugh Freeze’s alma mater recently fired their head coach after a loss to South Alabama: one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. My previous inkling that Liberty would pull this game off has become more confident, and I think Liberty beats the Golden Eagles.

Liberty 28, Southern Miss 20

It would be sweet if Liberty could pull off this win. The teams haven’t met since Liberty’s 2016 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg, and Liberty’s steady rise has given Liberty fans hope that one day, the Flames can consistently compete with and beat Virginia Tech. This year, however, the Hokies are a top 25 team with too much experience and firepower for Liberty to handle.

Virginia Tech 45, Liberty 21

Western Carolina is a mediocre FCS team and the Flames will take care of business in this one.

Liberty 52, Western Carolina 10

NC State went 4-8 in 2019, and the Flames have a chance to pull the upset here. I’d say this is close to a toss-up game, but that will be determined by how well NC State fares in its games before taking on Liberty. I’ll flip a coin here and say NC State pulls away in the fourth quarter for a win.

NC State 31, Liberty 21

Coastal and Liberty are two very comparable teams. The two schools successfully recruit the same caliber of players, have a history together, and have fanbases with mutual interest in the two schools meeting again. Coastal finished 5-7 last year, but I think this game will be a lot of fun to watch.

Liberty 28, Coastal Carolina 17

Record Projection: 7-3