Liberty vs. Wake Forest Picks, Predictions, Odds: Expect Demon Deacons to Roll

Liberty vs. Wake Forest Picks, Predictions, Odds: Expect Demon Deacons to Roll article feature image

Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Hampton Tanner (Wake Forest)

Liberty vs. Wake Forest Odds

Saturday, Sept. 17
5 p.m. ET
ACC Network
Liberty Odds
-110o / -110u
Wake Forest Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Hugh Freeze’s Liberty Flames head to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

These two teams are headed in opposite directions with their quarterback situations.

Liberty lost veteran transfer Charlie Brewer in the first week and has been playing third-stringer Kaidon Salter.

Wake Forest thought it would be without fifth-year veteran Sam Hartman due to a medical situation, but he made a surprise return last week to kickstart this unique offense.

Liberty Flames

Freeze’s Flames have started the post-Malik Willis era by squeaking out a pair of wins over Group of Five teams from the South. 

In Week 1, they won against Southern Miss in a four-overtime game that was, quite frankly, off the rails. Then they snuck by UAB at home by a touchdown, despite allowing 6.5 yards per non-sack rush. 

That’s the theme so far of the Liberty season: close wins despite a porous run defense. 

While holding UAB to 14 points, the Flames forced two punts after the Blazers had crossed midfield, and also created two turnovers when the Blazers were inside the 10-yard line. 

Southern Miss, likewise, turned it over twice inside the five and punted once after crossing midfield.

Do we believe Liberty has an innate knack for creating turnovers inside the 10-yard line?

Or do we believe that the Flames caught (and created) a few breaks while playing a Sun Belt team that has struggled mightily on offense in the last two years, and a Conference USA team that ranks in the middle of the pack in FBS on offense? 

The latter seems more likely to me.

The story will be different on the road against a top-10 FBS offense like Wake Forest. Wake Forest will move the ball at will and will have more success converting scores than Liberty’s previous two opponents.

On offense, the story of the Flames’ season has been the quick transition from Willis to Salter. Salter is a precocious talent — as a former four-star Tennessee commit — but he has also been thrust into playing while still raw due to Brewer's injury.

So far for Salter, it has been strikes and gutters. He has three Big Time Throws charted by PFF, but also three Turnover Worthy-Plays. He has a big arm and is not afraid to go long — as shown by his 18.3 ADOT% — but he has only a 55% completion percentage.

Salter has been pressured 17 times and has already scrambled 13 times. Those numbers back up what you see when you watch him play: he is not yet comfortable in the pocket against college defenses. 

The Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest has not been known for stiff defenses, but last week against a similar boom-or-bust signal caller, the Demon Deacons shut down Vanderbilt’s Mike Wright.

They erased his scrambling ability, holding him to just two yards scrambling out of his 17 total rush yards at a 2.1 yard per carry average. He was 8-of-15 through the air for 35 yards when he was benched.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Hartman returned in Week 2 with a flourish by completing 66.7% of his passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He staked Wake Forest to an early 21-3 lead over Vanderbilt, and found his favorite target, A.T. Perry, for a 68-yard score.

It was a vintage performance. 

Expect more of the same on Saturday against a Liberty defense that won’t keep up with Warren Ruggiero’s offense.

Liberty’s defensive numbers are inflated so far because it has faced the fewest passes through two games in FBS, as opponents have only called 33 pass plays against the Flames (as opposed to 88 rush plays).

Southern Miss rushed for 4.7 yards per carry — much of that out of a purely Wildcat offense — and UAB pounded the rock for 5.6 yards per carry. 

Wake Forest’s offense is a far more balanced attack, with 64 passes to 76 rushes this season. The Deacs have had more success passing the ball, and they should find room on the ground against Liberty’s front, as well. 

Liberty’s two opponents attacked it on the ground in different ways. UAB stuck entirely to a zone-blocking scheme, compiling yardage with 31 zone runs and only six with gap-blocking designs. Southern Miss played the opposite way, preferring 34 gap rushes to only 16 zone-block runs. 

Wake Forest, again, is very balanced with 38 gap runs and 34 zone-blocking runs on the season.

Whichever attack the Deacs choose for this game should find success against a Flames defense that has not played an offense even close to their caliber yet this season.

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Liberty vs. Wake Forest Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Liberty and Wake Forest match up statistically:

Liberty Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense
Rush Success3078
Line Yards7526
Pass Success11462
Pass Blocking**221
Finishing Drives87102
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Wake Forest Offense vs. Liberty Defense
Rush Success11575
Line Yards8029
Pass Success2128
Pass Blocking**4754
Finishing Drives4033
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling9612
PFF Coverage677
SP+ Special Teams12116
Seconds per Play23.4 (22)26.4 (65)
Rush Rate59.5% (28)57.4% (43)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Liberty vs. Wake Forest Betting Pick

It’s become the norm to look at a college football scoreboard and see numbers starting in the 30s and 40s next to Wake Forest’s name.

That will be no different on Saturday against Liberty.

Salter is a precocious talent with a lot of promise, but he is still very green, and Wake Forest just demoralized a similar player one week ago.

I look for the Demon Deacons to put on a show for their homecoming crowd in Winston-Salem and cover the spread, which currently sits at -16.5.

I’ll play it up to -17.

Pick: Wake Forest -16.5 (Play to -17)

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