DSC_1551Liberty (7-4 overall, 3-1 Big South) faces #16 Charleston Southern (10-2, 3-1) in Charleston, South Carolina Saturday morning at 11:00. Yes, you read that right, 11AM. This will be the final regular season game for each team. With a win, the Buccaneers will clinch the Big South auto-bid to advance to the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history. If Liberty wins, they will clinch at least a share of the Big South title for the 6th time in 7 years.

Why Charleston Southern can win this game
Charleston Southern ranks #1 in all of FCS in time of possession. The Buccaneers, on average, possess the ball for over 34 minutes per game. This allows their defense to stay rested, and is one reason why their defense is one of the best in the Big South. CSU’s defense ranks 2nd in the conference in scoring defense (20.6 points per game), and 3rd in total defense and rush defense.

CSU sports the #12 rushing offense in the country as they are averaging 236.5 rushing yards per game. This obviously contributes to them owning the time of possession battle. Charleston Southern has 9 different players who have ran the ball at least 11 times on the season, and they use “a little triple option” according to Coach Gill.

The Buccaneers have been very good at home and are 4-0 at home this season including a 31-26 win over #3 Coastal Carolina. CSU is sporting an 8 game win streak at home dating back to 2012, their last loss at home came on September 8, 2012 against Jacksonville. Charleston Southern has also won their last 4 home conference games dating back to 2011.


Liberty is 0-2 against ranked opponents this season including a 30-21 loss to Richmond

Running back Christian Reyes has been the Buccaneers stalwart in the backfield. Coach Gill describes him as “the key ingredient to their whole offense.” Reyes has 1,216 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns this season.

Liberty has not been very good against ranked opponents. The Flames are 12-48 all-time against ranked opponents including an 0-2 mark this season after losses to Richmond and Coastal Carolina. The last time Liberty beat a ranked opponent on the road was in 2008 when they defeated #23 Youngstown State 31-28.

Why Liberty can win this game
The Flames are 18-2 all-time against Charleston Southern and have won the past 8 meetings. Liberty is 8-1 all-time when facing the Buccaneers in Charleston. The Flames have won the past 8 meetings by an average of 23.3 points.


Wesley Scott is part of a very good Liberty defense

While both Liberty and Charleston Southern rank in the top 20 in FCS in scoring defense, the Flames hold a sizable advantage over the Buccaneers in scoring offense. Liberty has scored an average of 35.5 points per game this season, which ranks 21st in the country, whereas Charleston Southern has only put up 25 points per game which ranks 69th.

The term “bend but don’t break defense” is thrown around a lot, but that’s exactly what Liberty’s defense has been this season. The Flames have the 3rd best red zone defense in the country allowing their opponents to score on just 65% of their trips inside Liberty’s 20 yard line.

Charleston Southern has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, but they have the worst passing offense in the Big South. The Buccaneers are averaging just over 140 yards of passing offense per game this season. Liberty should be able to load the box while putting corners Kevin Fogg and Walt Aikens on their own respective islands to shut down CSU’s passing offense. Expect Liberty’s safeties to cheat up to stop Charleston Southern’s powerful rushing attack.

When facing an offense that runs the triple option frequently, it typically takes teams a few series of game action to adjust. But considering Liberty just faced Brevard, who runs the triple option exclusively, expect the Flames’ adjustment period to be nearly nonexistent. Granted, Charleston Southern has superior athletes than Division II Brevard, but having worked against the triple option in practie for 2 consecutive weeks, Liberty’s defense should be fully prepared scheme-wise.


Cory Freeman and Chima Uzowihe look to lead the Flames’ D line

X-Factor for this game
Liberty’s defensive line.

The Flames’ front line has been dominant since the Coastal Carolina game, stopping the run, getting into the opponent’s backfield, hurrying the quarterback, etc. If Liberty’s front line can control CSU’s offensive line, the Flames should be able to escape North Charleston with a win and a share of the 2013 Big South Championship.

Score prediction
Liberty 24 Charleston Southern 20