Everywhere Hugh Freeze has been head coach, he has been successful in re-building programs. He guided Lambuth to a 12-1 mark and 6th ranked NAIA team nationally in his second season. At Arkansas State, he took a program that won just four games the prior year to a 10-2 record and their first Sun Belt championship in six years. At Ole Miss, Freeze was named the 2014 Grant Teaff Coach of the Year in just his second season. In his third year, he led the Rebels to a 7-0 start and a No. 3 national ranking.

So, the fact that he has quickly gotten the Liberty football program on the national stage should not come as a surprise. The Flames entered the AP Top 25 this week for the first time in program history on the heels of Liberty’s 6-0 start to the season and the school’s first ever win over an ACC opponent.

“On my list of things to do to build a program, this is one of them,” Freeze said of making the top 25. “I put the picture up this morning in our team meeting, congratulated the team and obviously talked about the many, many people who have gone before us that have laid the vision, the foundation, the support.”

He told his team to take the photo showing Liberty in the top 25 and get it framed.

“You need to save this picture, it’s special,” Freeze continued. “This doesn’t happen in year two of full FBS very, very often. I don’t know if it’s ever happened before. I like doing things that are first, I’ve said that. This is one of our things on our checklist.”

Critics will point to Liberty’s first six opponents combined record of 4-28 and understandably so, but you can only play the games on your schedule. Western Kentucky was expected to compete for a Conference USA championship, but they have struggled through the first half of the season. Syracuse has been ravaged by injuries and Southern Miss is on their third head coach already this year.

“No one can take away the fact that our team was voted in the top 25,” said Freeze. “No one can take away that. The second part of our season is very difficult, it’s very challenging. I have no clue how that’s going to go, none of us do. You can’t predict injuries, COVID, turnovers, whatever, plus we’re playing some really good football teams. I don’t know how that’s all going to end. I do know this, I will not let that diminish what our team did to get to this point and be voted to be top 25 in the AP poll. They can’t take that away from us irregardless of what happens in these future games.”

Despite having an unblemished record and national ranking, the Flames are two touchdown underdogs against the unranked Virginia Tech Hokies. The two in-state programs are scheduled to meet this Saturday from Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. Following this past week’s open date, it’s the first of five straight games scheduled to finish the regular season for the Flames. Liberty is likely to be underdogs in three of those final five games, as the Flames also hit the road to take on N.C. State (4-2)and #15 Coastal Carolina (6-0).

“Do I expect us to compete in them,” Freeze asked rhetorically of the upcoming gauntlet. “You know I do. I think our kids expect that, but yet whatever happens, man this week has been special, it’s a milestone in our program, it’s one that hopefully our kids and their families can celebrate for years to come. Now, how hungry are you to stay there and be relevant and be talked about?”