Liberty vs. Southern Miss Odds, Picks: The Week 1 Moneyline Bet to Make
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)
- The Liberty Flames take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in Saturday night Week 1 college football action.
- The Flames welcome Charlie Brewer into the fold, as the Utah transfer will serve as the starter under center.
- Dan Keegan sees value on the other side, however, and explains why below.
Liberty vs. Southern Miss Odds
There are two keys to know about this game: First, Ty. As in Ty Keyes. Secondly, throw out the 2021 results — they don’t matter for this matchup in 2022. It will be hard to find two teams that will have rosters that are as different as these two.
Liberty has a TARP (Transfer Assets and Returning Production) of -0.5; Southern Miss has a TARP of 11.0. (Read a primer on TARP here).
Unfortunately for Liberty, it's a team headed for a major step back. Meanwhile, Southern Miss is a team that will surprise anyone who wrote it off.
Fortunately for you, you can take Southern Miss on the moneyline.
The Flames are prepared to take a significant step back on both sides of the ball.
Hugh Freeze has a reputation as a dynamite offensive mind, but his team finished 47th in offensive SP+ last year with an NFL-caliber quarterback. The strength of their team was explosive plays — ranking 14th in that metric — and they were only 39th in Success Rate.
Unfortunately, the author of that explosiveness is gone and is replaced with a game manager.
For his career, Malik Willis completed 63% of his passes, had a 9.1% BigTimeThrow% and had a 11.2 yards career Average Depth of Target.
He eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing each of his two seasons at the helm for Liberty, contributing equally with scramble yards (1,201) and designed run yards (1,062).
Charlie Brewer has played five seasons of Power Five football. He has completed 63% of his passes, with a 3.7% BTT% at an average depth of 9.2 yards. He is not a statue in the pocket, but his career 4.8 yards per carry is not in the same stratosphere as Willis' 8.1.
Freeze doesn't have enough tricks in his bag to create an offense around Brewer that is even close to the same caliber as the ones authored by Willis.
Defensively, Liberty ranks 111th in returning defensive production. Unlike other programs, Liberty was not aggressive in replacing outgoing talent with transfer portal starters, signing only two veterans — one from FCS — to help stem the tide.
The expectation is that a competent Southern Miss defense can be even better in 2022. Last year’s outfit was 89th in defensive SP+, and that’s opposite a world-historically bad offense.
With an influx of SEC transfer talent in the front four, and 10 contributors in the linebacking and secondary corps returning, this unit is expected to take another step forward.
Southern Miss was snake bit by 11 non-offensive touchdowns scored last season by opponents, an outlier figure that will regress to the mean in 2022.
The offense will turn around, as there is nowhere to go but up. The argument is not that Southern Miss offense will suddenly join the ranks of Alabama and Ohio State. No, just that it simply will not finish with the likes of UConn and NMSU again.
Firstly, Will Hall has a strong offensive pedigree. He has a great track record on that side of the ball, most recently coordinating the Tulane Green Wave into the top 40 of offensive SP+ in 2019 and 2020 before earning the head job in Hattiesburg.
When his offense cratered midseason in 2021, he went back to the drawing board and adopted a dedicated Wildcat package that restored some semblance of respectability — and delivered two wins — in November.
So what challenges was Hall facing in his first year at the helm of a Division 1 program? He inherited a roster with only 62 scholarship players — well short of the 85 limit in FCS.
Every quarterback on the roster was injured last season, leading them to play running back Frank Gore Jr. under center to end the campaign.
An already thin offensive line suffered critical injuries, and the hire of OL coach Jeremy Darveau appeared to be a significant misstep. Darveau was let go after one season — a season in which every single offensive lineman regressed from their 2021 levels in PFF’s run- and pass-blocking grades.
With SEC transfers in Calvin McMillian and Bryce Ramsey improving the depth, the 2022 offensive line will be much improved.
The roster already sports All-Sun Belt caliber players at the skill positions in Gore and wide receiver Jason Brownlee. Hall and his staff worked the portal ranks hard and the program now rosters 85 scholarship players.
The keys to this fixer-upper have been given to Keyes. A three-star recruit from Taylorsville, MS, he had offers from Auburn, Nebraska, Oregon, Arkansas and others before deciding to stay close to home.
Forced into action as a true freshman thanks to season-ending injuries to the two veterans ahead of him, he flashed potential before likewise suffering a season-ending injury.
Keyes has won the job after an impressive spring and fall camp, and his coaches and teammates alike are glowing about his potential. Getting competent quarterback play — from an actual quarterback — will go a long way in Southern Miss taking a step into the realm of respectability.
So, add up all the pieces: a real quarterback, a savvy coach at the helm, two studs at the skill positions, real improvement in the trenches and some good ol’ fashioned positive regression.
Add it all up, and you have a team built for a turnaround.
Liberty vs. Southern Miss Betting Pick
Liberty is a program in transition, with a clear downgrade at quarterback and an exodus on defense. The Flames will join a conference in 2024, but Freeze openly flirts with other jobs every offseason.
A step back is in the cards.
Southern Miss just hit rock bottom, but it has put the pieces in place to rebound, and it is home underdogs in a night opener.
I’ll be taking Southern Miss on the moneyline at +145 at FanDuel, and would play it down to +130.