2023 was a banner year for Liberty football. Under first year head coach Jamey Chadwell, the Flames not only won Conference USA it’s first season in the league, Liberty did so by going unbeaten, finishing 12-0.

That led the Flames to a win over New Mexico State in the CUSA Championship game, improving its record to 13-0. Liberty was then the highest ranked Group of Five Conference Champion, narrowly beating out SMU from the American. It allowed the Flames to receive an automatic bid into the New Year’s Six Bowl games, receiving a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where Liberty would fall to Oregon, finishing the season at 13-1.

This season, the four-team College Football Playoff has been expanded to 12 teams and the highest ranked G5 Conference Champion will now receive an automatic bid to the CFP.

The four highest ranked conference champions will get first round byes, while teams seeded 5-12 will meet in the first round of the CFP this season. The first round will be played Friday Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21 at campus sites. The Quarterfinals will then be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with the Semifinals on Jan. 9 and 10. The CFP National Championship game will be played on Monday, Jan. 20.

As one of the expected top G5 teams this year, let’s take a look at Liberty’s path to once again being the top ranked G5 Conference Champ.


The first and most important step is Liberty must repeat as Conference USA champions. Only the highest ranked G5 conference champions will get the auto bid to the CFP, so the Flames must win CUSA, obviously.

Liberty will be the heavy favorite to repeat as conference champs. According to ESPN’s FPI, the Flames have a 41.5% chance at winning the conference championship this season.

First step: Take care of business in CUSA.


Liberty is once again expected to have one of the weakest strength of schedules in the country this season. It is a hurdle to overcome but something that is possible, as witnessed by 2023’s success despite having the worst ranked strength of schedule in the country.

Having a poor strength of schedule makes Liberty’s margin of error extremely thin. The Flames must not only win Conference USA, but LU will also, more than likely, need to go undefeated during the regular season to put together a strong enough case to be considered as the highest ranked G5 champion.

One thing to keep in mind, a year ago, Liberty had to make up a large gap to be considered late in the season. With so much roster turnover and a new coaching staff, the Flames weren’t expected to win Conference USA, much less go unbeaten. It wasn’t until November when Liberty started to get ranked in top 25 polls last year.

This year, many outlets have the Flames ranked at or near the top 25 already in the preseason. If Liberty takes care of business in September, including a win at Appalachian State, it is likely the Flames will then be ranked in the top 25 before the calendar even flips to October. Still, Liberty will not be able to overcome a loss during the season unless there is absolute chaos throughout all of the G5.


There is a chance that if Liberty goes undefeated, the Flames could still be passed up as the top ranked G5 conference champion by a 1 or maybe even 2-loss G5 champions from another league or certainly another unbeaten G5 champ.

Let’s look at Memphis, for example. The Tigers are expected to compete for the AAC championship. Their schedule includes Troy – one of the top teams in the Sun Belt – and Florida State. If Memphis runs the table, as unlikely as that might be, they would clearly be ranked higher than an unbeaten Liberty. Even if the Tigers go 12-1 with their only loss being to Florida State, or even a loss in conference that includes a win over the Seminoles, and Memphis would have a very strong case to be considered in the CFP ahead of an unbeaten Liberty.

As a Liberty fan, in addition to cheering on the Flames each game day, we will also need some help in the other conferences. There are four other conferences to keep an eye on – Sun Belt, Mountain West, AAC, and the MAC. The more losses each of the teams vying for those respective conference championships end up with, the better for Liberty’s chances.

The path is daunting for Liberty to reach the expanded 12-team CFP, but that is how it is supposed to be. Only 12 of 134 teams will have an opportunity to reach that level. The Flames have a strong case to contend for that coveted G5 spot, and we will be monitoring the progress throughout the upcoming season.