Liberty captain Josh Woodrum hopes to lead the Flames to a victory Saturday night

Liberty captain Josh Woodrum hopes to lead the Flames to a victory Saturday night

You don’t know how good it feels to be writing about an actual game. Liberty opens the season this Saturday evening in Chapel Hill against #23 North Carolina. Kickoff is slated for 6:04 and the game will be carried on ESPN3.

Why North Carolina can win this game

For the Tar Heels, it’s quite simple, really. Not only are they from the FBS, but they compete in the ACC, a P5 conference. In addition, Carolina is ranked in both major national polls entering the season. This will be the first time the Flames have ever faced a ranked FBS opponent. With a 2-17 record all-time against FBS opponents, LU hasn’t fared too well against unranked FBS opponents. The Heels are bigger, faster, and stronger than FCS Liberty.

Ryan Switzer (photo courtesy: HeraldSun)

Ryan Switzer. The electrifying punt returner tied the NCAA record last season with 5 punts returned for touchdown. He was just a freshman. The Flames are breaking in a new punter in redshirt freshman Trey Turner. This is definitely an area to watch, if the Tar Heels are able to consistently position their offense favorably, it could be a long day for Liberty.

Why Liberty can win this game

The Flames’ Josh Woodrum is entering his 3rd season as Liberty’s signal-caller. He is proven and should have plenty of confidence in Kenan Stadium Saturday. UNC, on the other hand, has had a quarterback competition all offseason between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky. While both guys are clearly talented, there could be some nerves when either lines up behind center to take their first snap. This would be a bigger advantage for the Flames if Carolina’s starter is the redshirt freshman Trubisky as opposed to Williams who saw playing time in 11 games last season. Throw in the announcement Wednesday of 4 defensive backs being suspended for the game including the 2 starting cornerbacks, and Liberty’s aerial attack could do some damage.

LU has proven they can compete with ACC opponents in recent years. In Turner Gill’s first game as head coach of the Flames, LU fell to Wake Forest 20-17 in the 2012 season opener. The year before, a Danny Rocco-led Liberty squad fell to NC State 43-21 in the 2011 season opener. While the final score of the game against the Wolfpack was one-sided, Liberty trailed by just 9 points with possession of the ball in the 4th quarter.

X-Factor for this game

Special Teams

It’s hard to pinpoint one x-factor in a game where a team is nearly a 30 point underdog. Liberty will need several things to go right in order to pull off the huge upset in Chapel Hill on Saturday, but if they allow Switzer, or any of the other Heels, to continually have good returns then you can kiss this one goodbye. Coach Gill is also breaking in a couple of new special teamers in kicker Avery Echols and punter Trey Turner. While the Flames don’t need to win the special teams battle, they need to keep from losing the game in this phase.

Score prediction
North Carolina 35 Liberty 21