The Liberty Flames are a perfect 4-0, with all four wins coming by at least 10 points. Jamey Chadwell took over a program with a strong recent history and immediately has the Flames looking like the class of Conference USA.
If you listen to Liberty fans, you’ll start to believe the Flames are not only playing decent football under Chadwell, but they’re poised to go 12-0 and should be considered as the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
If you listen to opposing fans, you’ll believe Liberty’s record and success is a product of arguably the easiest FBS schedule in the country.
As is often typical, the truth lies somewhere in between.
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Liberty’s 4-0 start shouldn’t be dismissed solely due to the strength of schedule. Not only are the Flames 4-0 overall, but they’re also 4-0 against the spread. Liberty is outperforming expectations when we look at the college football betting odds, a good sign that the Flames are playing at a higher level than anticipated on a weekly basis.
They’re a nearly 20-point favorite for Thursday’s game against Sam Houston.
Every win on Liberty’s schedule has come by at least 10 points, and the Flames’ last two wins came by 28 points and 32 points. Their +86 point differential is the best in CUSA, and it’s an impressive mark through four games.
We also need to take into account Liberty’s previous success, as the Flames aren’t coming out of nowhere in 2023.
The Flames have been strong in recent seasons, winning at least eight games in four consecutive years. They defeated Arkansas last fall, and had a pair of one-point losses to ACC teams. In 2020, Liberty defeated Syracuse and Virginia Tech, as well as a top-tier Coastal Carolina team in its bowl game.
The Flames are happy to have Coastal Carolina’s head coach from that game, Chadwell, heading their program. He thrived at Coastal Carolina, leading the Chanticleers to a 31-6 record over his final three seasons with the program. Chadwell knows how to win, and Liberty has ample resources to dominate CUSA.
It’s not a surprise to see the pairing working out.
Even Liberty fans have to admit the 2023 Flames team is playing a comically easy schedule for a team hoping to be considered for a New Year’s Six spot. Conference USA, looking at both top-level teams and depth, sits notably below the Sun Belt, American, and Mountain West.
Liberty’s conference schedule simply isn’t that demanding.
The non-conference schedule of Bowling Green, Buffalo, Old Dominion, and UMass is quite weak as well. Liberty doesn’t face a Power Five team this season, and it only faces one team (Old Dominion) from the Sun Belt, AAC, or MWC. The Monarchs are just 2-3, and they were picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East before the season.
Liberty will likely need to finish 12-0 and rely on a giant margin of victory to have any hope of playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Fans should be excited about the Flames’ red-hot start to the season, but they need to be realistic about how the schedule’s shortcomings will justifiably impact how the team is perceived.