Liberty vs NC State Prediction
Having already beaten two ACC teams this season, the no. 21 Liberty Flames put their undefeated record on the line this weekend when they visit the NC State Wolfpack. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 21, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. The current betting odds list NC State as 3.5-point favorites at home with the over/under set at 67 points. Keep reading to get an in-depth preview of both teams and learn how to get our official NC State vs Liberty prediction.
For Hugh Freeze and the Flames, the 2020 season has been nothing short of a dream. This is only Liberty’s second season at the FBS level, and yet they are 8-0 and in the top-25. Of course, two of those wins have come against FCS teams while a few others have been against some of the worst teams at the FBS level. However, wins over ACC opponents Syracuse and Virginia are evidence that the Flames are for real.
The Liberty offense is averaging over 40 points per game on the season. Again, the team’s schedule has contributed to that. However, quarterback Malik Willis has been a one-man wrecking crew this year. The Auburn transfer is Liberty’s leading rusher, gaining seven yards every time he gets out of the pocket. He also has three capable running backs in the backfield with him that opposing defenses have to respect. But Willis has also been a competent passer, which has been the key to Liberty’s offensive success. Willis is completing close to 68% of his passes and has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just one interception. When opposing defenses crowd the line of scrimmage, Willis has proven himself capable of throwing the ball over the top for big gains.
Alas, the Liberty defense remains a bit of a question mark, at least against power-conference opponents. The likes of Florida International, Southern Miss, and Virginia Tech have all scored over 30 points against the Flames this year. Teams with a strong rushing attack that can remain balanced on offense have given the Flames the most problems this season. Freeze is still working on upgrading the talent on that side of the ball, which is why the Flames are often forced to win high-scoring games.
NC State Preview
The Wolfpack has flown a little under the radar this season. Wins over the likes of Wake Forest, Virginia, and Pitt have NC State sitting at 5-3 on the season. Those three losses have taken the Wolfpack out of contention for a spot in the ACC Championship Game. However, NC State has done enough to be considered the best team in the league’s second tier. The Wolfpack will be favored in their three remaining games, putting them in a good position to finish with an impressive 8-3 record.
The caveat for NC State’s season is that they’ve lost two of their last three games since losing starting quarterback Devin Leary to an injury. Backup Bailey Hockman has been steady as Leary’s replacement. But there’s clearly been a drop-off, especially since Hockman has thrown an interception in all three of his starts. Nevertheless, the NC State offense remains dangerous because of a solid backfield duo in Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person, as well as two quality playmakers at receiver in Emeka Emezie and Thayer Thomas.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack is still trying to sort through some issues on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve managed to get by against some of the weaker teams in the ACC, but NC State has also conceded at least 40 points in half of their games this season. For the most part, the Wolfpack has been vulnerable against good rushing teams, especially teams that have a mobile quarterback. They’ve given up over 300 rushing yards in multiple games this season, so there are games when they can’t get a handle on the running game at all.
Full Game Prediction
Get ready for a high-scoring contest between the Wolfpack and the Flames. NC State’s defense hasn’t done enough this year to make anyone think they’ll be able to slow down the Liberty running game. Of course, the same can be said of the Liberty defense, even if the Wolfpack is playing a backup quarterback. In the end, this game could come down to what team has the ball last or what team has an untimely turnover.
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