Fiesta Bowl: Liberty vs. Oregon Expert Pick and Prediction – January 1, 2024
FIESTA BOWL: LIBERTY VS. OREGON EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 1, 2024 — After skating through 2023 without playing anyone of substance, Liberty gets its shot at the big boys in facing Oregon. This might be a little more than the Flames bargained for, however, as they played one of the weakest schedules in the nation.
To put things in perspective, the best team Liberty faced all year was New Mexico State, and their second-best opponent was a Jacksonville State squad that wasn’t even in FBS a season ago. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of a schedule.
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And unlike some of the other big-name teams, Oregon isn’t exactly going to be hurting for talent. The Ducks did not have their quarterback opt out; Bo Nix has chosen to complete his college career in the bowl game. Plus, Oregon has a thing for boat-racing overmatched opponents. The Ducks faced eight teams where they were giving at least two touchdowns, and the average score was 51-14
Oregon coach Dan Lanning mostly has the support of everyone in Eugene, but two losses to Washington did detract from that somewhat. Losing to Liberty would raise a lot of questions, and he knows it. This might be reminiscent of when Georgia met Hawai’i in the Sugar Bowl 15 years ago.
(13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS)
(11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS)
When: Monday, January 1 at 1 p.m. EST
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Public Bets: 62% on Oregon
Public Money: 57% on Liberty
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 30th, 2023.
Liberty vs. Oregon In-Season Trends
Liberty’s been an over team all year, in large part because the Flames don’t really have much of a defense. In their past seven games, the Flames went over six times, giving up at least 25 points each time. Liberty’s scored in the 30s in every game but one, but again, they haven’t really faced anyone all season.
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You’d think Oregon would be all about the overs with its powerful offense, but the Ducks have actually played more to the under this year. And that’s because Oregon’s defense has the potential to shut teams down and does it on a regular basis.
Utah and Oregon State both felt the sting of the Duck defense, with neither scoring more than seven points in their defeats. Out of 13 games, Oregon actually held their opponents to 10 points or less on six occasions.
The roof might be open with temperatures at 64 degrees at kickoff, depending on what it actually feels like on gameday. If there’s a chill in the air, they’ll close the roof of the Cardinals’ stadium.
Kaidon Salter made a living on not turning the ball over and setting things up for Quinton Cooley on the ground. Cooley rushed for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season, and Salter finished with 31 passing touchdowns against just five interceptions. By any standard, those are solid numbers from the Liberty skill players.
But Oregon’s numbers were better. Nix went for 4,145 yards, 40 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while Bucky Irving scored 10 touchdowns and rushed for 1,063 yards. How the Ducks choose to approach this game will decide which of their stars has a big game in this matchup. It might very well be both of them putting up big numbers.
This could get really ugly really quickly. We saw what Georgia did to Florida State’s third string in the Orange Bowl. Oregon’s in an even more lopsided situation. Liberty wasn’t crippled by opt-outs like the Seminoles were, but the Flames didn’t play anybody all season and are facing a loaded opponent that has shown no bones about making statements.
The under is actually the play here because of how dominant the Oregon defense can be. I don’t see Liberty getting more than 10 points in this game. Taking the Flames’ team total under might be a way to protect against the possibility of Oregon hitting 60.
Liberty TTU 26