It may be Week 4, but make no mistake about it. For the Liberty Flames, it’s playoff time. One could easily make the argument that the playoffs started for Liberty back in Week 2 against Norfolk State, but now there can be no doubt about it. This three week stretch will define Liberty Football for 2014.
The Flames start off at home against #25 Bryant, a team that has defeated both Stony Brook (remember them?) and #23 Maine so far this season. Then, Coach Gill’s team heads to the mid-west for a road game against Indiana State. The Sycamores play in the challenging Missouri Valley Conference, and are coming off a win against FBS Ball State (remember them?). Finally, Liberty comes back to Lynchburg for a Homecoming night match up against Danny Rocco’s (remember him?) Richmond Spiders, who are currently #18 in the country.
Each of these games present unique challenges for Liberty, and each of them are must win games if the Flames have aspirations of earning an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. It doesn’t end there, as LU will have to run through their Big South schedule as well leading up to the regular season finale against Coastal Carolina. There can be no doubt that with each win, the following game builds in importance as the season stretches on. However, for that to be the case, Liberty has to win Saturday night against Bryant.
None of the next three games are easy, but all of them are winnable. Bryant is a defensive minded team that upset Maine this past week. Maine won a close game against Norfolk State to open the season. There is no reason to think that the Flames shouldn’t be able to find a way to win that game in Williams Stadium. Going on the road is always difficult, especially against an unfamiliar opponent from a tough conference. So Indiana State may pose the toughest challenge over the next few weeks. This is a team that not only beat an FBS team this season, they also hung with Indiana and blew out FCS Tennessee Tech. This is also an Indiana State program that lost eleven games last year. The Flames certainly have the talent to win this one, but will they have the poise?
Then there is Richmond. What can I say about this one? Last year, Liberty traveled to Richmond and lost a toughly contested game 30-21. Coach Rocco said after the game that he would prefer to not play Liberty anymore. It looks like his wish was not granted, as the Spiders must come to Danny’s old stomping grounds in a little over two weeks. What sort of reception will Rocco be greeted with? If the Flames beat Bryant and Indiana State, this game will probably be the most important ever played at Williams Stadium. It should also challenge Liberty’s home attendance record. It will be a tough match up, for sure, but the Flames should have confidence after giving the Spiders all they could handle last season on the road.
So if you are tired of irrelevant Division 2 opponents, or cupcake FCS programs, your time is here. Liberty’s schedule just got intense, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Liberty Football is trying to prove that it’s ready for the big time, so let’s prove that we as fans are ready for it as well. The playoffs are here.