The Liberty Flames scored 35 unanswered points to take a commanding 35-7 lead over Southern Miss into the locker room at halftime on Saturday afternoon as it looked like the Flames would stroll to a 6-0 start to the 2020 season. The Golden Eagles had other ideas as they scored 21 straight points in the 3rd quarter to cut the Liberty lead to 35-28.
Behind Malik Willis, the Flames responded and quickly regained control of the game, ultimately winning 56-35 behind a 7-touchdown performance by the Liberty quarterback. Liberty is one of only three 6-0 teams in the country, alongside Clemson and BYU.
The Flames’ strong start to the season has them receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 polls. Following the team’s win over Syracuse a week ago, Liberty received 37 points in the AP Top 25 as LU was 33rd – 8th among others receiving votes. In the Coaches Poll last week, the Flames received 57 points and was ranked 31st – 6th among others receiving votes.
Here’s how the rest of the AP and Coaches Top 25 fared in this week’s action as well as a projection for where Liberty could find themselves in each poll Sunday afternoon.
- Clemson defeated Syracuse, 47-21
- Alabama defeated Tennessee, 48-17
- Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh, 45-3
- Georgia did not play
- Ohio State defeated Nebraska, 52-17
- Oklahoma State defeated #17 Iowa State, 24-21
- Texas A&M did not play
- Penn State lost to Indiana, 36-35, in overtime
- Cincinnati defeated #16 SMU, 42-13
- Florida did not play
- Miami defeated Virginia, 19-14
- BYU defeated Texas State, 52-14
- Oregon did not play
- North Carolina defeated #23 NC State, 48-21
- Wisconsin defeated Illinois, 45-7
- SMU lost to #9 Cincinnati, 42-13
- Iowa State lost to #6 Oklahoma State, 24-21
- Michigan defeated #21 Minnesota, 49-24
- Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest, 23-16
- Kansas State defeated Kansas, 55-14
- Minnesota lost to #18 Michigan, 49-24
- Marshall defeated FAU, 20-0
- NC State lost to #14 North Carolina, 48-21
- USC did not play
- Coastal Carolina defeated Georgia Southern, 28-14
In total, six ranked teams lost this weekend – #8 Penn State, #16 SMU, #17 Iowa State, #19 Virginia Tech, #21 Minnesota, #23 NC State.
Virginia Tech, Minnesota, and NC State are all most likely to fall from the Top 25 rankings. Iowa State is likely to remain within the poll towards the bottom as they lost by just 3 points to a top 10 team. SMU is an interesting case. They could slip out of the rankings after losing 42-13, but 10 spots is a long ways to fall for losing to a top 10 team. Penn State will likely remain in the Top 25 after their loss.
That leaves three, and possibly four, spots left vacant in the Top 25. Could Liberty slide into one of these spots?
Indiana was receiving 4 and 5 votes, respectively, in the AP and Coaches Top 25 polls before they began their season with an upset win over #8 Penn State. Expect the Hoosiers to leapfrog Liberty among those receiving votes and jump into the Top 25.
In the AP Poll, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Tulsa were the top three vote-getters in the others receiving votes category last week. Memphis defeated Temple, 41-29, to improve to 3-1 on the season and could easily slide into the ranking. Oklahoma knocked off TCU, 33-14, and is also likely to move into the rankings this week. Tulsa defeated South Florida, 42-13, on Friday and is likely to move into the rankings before Liberty would.
That’s four teams in the AP Poll likely ahead of Liberty for the 3-4 vacant spots. My projection is Liberty lands among the first three teams in the others receiving votes category of the AP Poll this week.
In the Coaches Poll, Auburn and Army were the first two teams among those receiving votes that did not make the ranking last week. Auburn knocked off Ole Miss, 35-28, and Army defeated Mercer, 49-3. Expect both of them to slide into the Top 25 before Liberty, as will Indiana. Oklahoma received 2 more points than the Flames last week, and they will likely stay just ahead of LU again this week.
Like the AP Poll, expect Liberty to be among the first three teams in the others receiving votes category of the Coaches Poll this week.