College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Liberty vs. UAB: The Bet to Make for Saturday’s Group of Five Game (Oct. 2)
Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Johnston III.
- The UAB Blazers take on the Liberty Flames in an intriguing Group of Five matchup on Saturday night.
- The Flames are coming off a tough loss to Syracuse and enter this matchup as short underdogs.
- Collin Wilson thinks the Blazers will pull out the win and explains his betting pick below.
Liberty vs. UAB Odds
|Liberty Odds||+3 (-122)|
|UAB Odds||-3 (+100)|
|Moneyline||+116 / -141|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||CBS Sports Network|
|Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
The shine has come off the Liberty program that looked to stay undefeated until the titanic Hugh Freeze return to Ole Miss.
The Syracuse defense forced the Flames to five punts and a missed field goal through the first seven possessions. A late fourth-quarter fumble by Malik Willis gave the Orange an opportunity to get into field-goal range and secure the win.
Freeze relayed to the press that his team has not prepared as well as the 2020 campaign, specifying numerous incidents of receivers running incorrect routes.
UAB continues its domination of the Group of Five, with only a blemish to Georgia on the schedule. This follows a long history during the Bill Clark tenure of losing all five games against Power Five teams and a 37-12 mark against all others since the program was resurrected in 2017.
Despite a beatdown from Georgia, the Blazers have impressive marks in allowing just 2.7 points per opponent drive past the 40-yard line and a positive 1.1 overall yards per play differential.
This will be the first game in UAB’s new Protective Stadium after 25 years in the Old Gray Lady.
Liberty vs. UAB Betting Preview
Can Malik Willis be Stopped?
Liberty fields one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football in Willis.
The potential first-round NFL Draft signal-caller has generated 356 yards on the ground through 24 rushing attempts. Willis averages 6.1 yards after contact, creating 20 missed tackles — good enough to rank top-five among all rushers at the FBS level.
Freeze uses Willis in different formations, with 16 scrambles, 11 zone reads and six designed runs.
The biggest handicap in game planning for Willis is a solid rank in tackling and setting the edge outside the offensive tackles. It isn’t enough to just knock the Flames off schedule, as Liberty ranks top-35 in both Passing Downs Success Rate and explosiveness.
Freeze fields one of the best offenses in passing downs with a 7.2 yards per play mark.
Liberty’s Problematic Pass Defense
The Liberty defense has national average Success Rate in standard and passing downs but has fallen below the mark in passing plays.
The Flames run exclusively out of the 4-2-5 scheme and blitz at a low rate of just 12% of snaps. Liberty owns a Defensive Havoc rate of 30th, a number that is not supported by pass breakups.
The Flames rank 74th in passes defended per game with efficiency decreasing in passing downs. Not only is the defense 71st in defense of passing downs explosiveness, but the Flames also allow 3.9 points to opponents per trip past the 40-yard line.
With a coverage rank of 61st and 93rd in Defensive Finishing Drives, capable offenses can keep up with the firepower of Willis.
UAB Establishes the Run
Whether UAB lines up in 11 or 12 formations, the goal is to establish the run on 68% of snaps.
Bill Clark’s offense has generated a Success Rate over the national average in running plays but has been stuffed on 55-of-163 attempts. Only three rushing attempts have gone over 20 yards, keeping the explosiveness rank on the ground outside the top 100.
Thankfully, UAB has been fantastic passing in limited attempts with starter Tyler Johnston III and the hot hand of Dylan Hopkins.
— Stadium (@Stadium) September 19, 2021
Hopkins has neared perfection on passes over 20 yards, logging four touchdowns and no turnover-worthy plays. The Success Rate for UAB shines more in passing downs than any other area, a much-needed factor considering the above national average mark of Stuff Rate in rushing attempts.
While Hopkins has taken snaps away from Johnston over the past two games, both quarterbacks can bail out an offense that stalls when trying to establish the run.
Blazers Big Against Explosiveness
UAB excels in limiting explosive plays, running a 2-4-5 scheme and daring opposing offenses to look downfield. The Blazers defense is top-20 against explosive plays on both the ground and through the air.
The blitz scheme is quite the opposite of Liberty, as Clark sends blitz on 29% of defensive snaps, sending up to six defenders after the quarterback.
UAB is not only 24th in tackling but also ranks third overall in coverage grading, per PFF.
Swoopes gets the INT on the first defensive play for @UAB_FB then McBride takes it in to put the Blazers on top early!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) September 18, 2021
A staple of UAB under Clark is the defense’s ability to limit opponents in scoring position. Despite a romp from the Georgia offense, the Blazers have held opponents to just 2.7 points per trip past the 40-yard line.
Liberty vs. UAB Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Liberty and UAB match up statistically:
Liberty Offense vs. UAB Defense
UAB Offense vs. Liberty Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Liberty vs. UAB Betting Pick
There are a number of areas that will dictate the winner of this game, starting with the Blazers’ ability to tackle Willis in space.
UAB got a taste of one of the best rushing attacks in the nation against Georgia in Week 2. UAB limited running backs Kendall Milton, Daijun Edwards and Zamir White to very few yards after contact and just seven missed tackles in 22 combined attempts. UAB has earned its rank as one of the best tackling teams in the nation.
As for the combination of Johnston and Hopkins, the Flames defense ranks outside the top 50 against pass explosiveness. Right cornerback Chris Megginson has posted fantastic coverage grades, but a trio of safeties and linebacker Storey Jackson have been targeted with success through Liberty’s first four games.
Hopkins has been tremendous in passing between the hash marks, going 12-of-13 from zero to nine yards and perfect on three attempts over 20 yards.
The Action Network projection sets this game at UAB -1 with a total of 48.
These are two of the slowest teams in the nation, both bottom-10 in terms of plays per minute. The Blazers have the advantage in Finishing Drives on both sides of the ball, but explosiveness in passing downs targeting the Flames safeties can send this game over the total.
UAB opens a brand new stadium and fields the better team in tackling, coverage and explosiveness grades.
Look for Clark to send heavy blitz on Willis with assurance that any busted plays will be covered by a secondary that is excellent in limiting yards after contact.