Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Liberty Flames Odds, Pick, Prediction: Underdog Has Value

Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Liberty Flames Odds, Pick, Prediction: Underdog Has Value article feature image

John Fisher and G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Preston Hutchinson (10) of the Eastern Michigan Eagles and Malik Willis (7) of the Liberty Flames.

  • The Liberty Flames are a double-digit favorite over Eastern Michigan in the 2021 Lending Tree Bowl on Saturday evening.
  • Both these teams have been profitable for bettors this season, and will look to cash one last winning ticket this season.
  • Get Collin Wilson's full Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty pick and preview below.

Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty Betting Odds

Saturday, Dec. 18
5:45 p.m. ET
Eastern Michigan Odds
-110o / -110u
Liberty Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

There may not be another bowl with two head coaches who have been so friendly to investors, when the Eastern Michigan Eagles meet the Liberty Flames.

Liberty's Hugh Freeze and Eastern Michigan's Chris Creighton are a combined 8-1 against the spread in bowl games, signaling that these are two coaches who will have their squads prepared for the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on Saturday.

Liberty enters on a three-game losing streak with a -11 turnover differential to close the season.

Quarterback Malik Willis has seen his NFL Draft stock fall this season, but this game could provide the boost needed to jump back into the first round, where many projected him to go before the season.

Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, spent the majority of November MACtion play struggling to put points on the scoreboard. Defense has been optional for the Eagles throughout the season, allowing opponents to exceed the national average in explosive drive and two-plus first down rate.

If Willis is looking for an opportunity, there may never be a better platform, as Eastern Michigan is dead last in Defensive Stuff Rate.

LendingTree Bowl
Saturday, Dec. 18 · Mobile, AL

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Quarterback Ben Bryant transferred from Cincinnati and supplanted Preston Hutchinson as the starter in the third game of the season against UMass.

Bryant finished the season with a 14:6 ratio in touchdowns to interceptions but an even ratio of big-time throws to turnover-worthy plays.

Bryant struggled in the season finale against Central Michigan's 4-2-5 defense, taking a total of seven sacks. This is the same base set Liberty defensive coordinator Scott Symons elects to run, as Creighton recognizes the potential struggles to come in the bowl.

What a beautiful throw & catch! @benbryant_6 connects with @tannerknue for the TD! @EMUFB | #MACtion | #ESPN2pic.twitter.com/XiqxbGaCFA

— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 2, 2021

While the offense looks to return to top-25 form in Finishing Drives, the defense has been a complete fiasco. Eastern Michigan has generated just 48 tackles for loss and falls within the bottom 15 in Havoc, Line Yards and coverage.

Teams have been able to push the Eagles' front and consistently move the chains, as Liberty will face a defense that is 127th in Standard Downs Success Rate.

Generally, teams are willing to give up yards to play tight red-zone coverage, but the Eagles' large discrepancy compared to the Flames in Finishing Drives indicates there will be plenty of points scored in the LendingTree Bowl.

Liberty Flames

Hugh Freeze has felt the burn of a 7-5 season after entering the season with such high expectations. The Flames capped off a successful 2020 season with a win over undefeated Coastal Carolina.

Despite returning the majority of snaps on the offensive line, trench play is directly linked to a rank of 104th in Havoc Allowed. A spike in Willis interceptions have come with pressured pockets, as the Flames are 128th in Passing Downs Sack Rate.

When the dual-threat quarterback is flushed from the pocket, scoring threats always follow.

🤩 Our QB is just more special than yours. @malikwillispic.twitter.com/Df3yTx33tA

— Liberty Mtn Views 🦅 (@LibertyMtnViews) December 11, 2021

The offense thrives on the ground game, running on 57% of snaps with a Line Yards rank in the top five.

Liberty runs into trouble when opposing defenses are allowed to play in the backfield and pressure Willis in passing downs. In the final three losses to close the season, Liberty allowed 27 tackles for loss and 21 sacks.

The 4-2-5 defense ranks top-25 in Havoc, but issues persist in stopping the opponent rush. The Flames lost their final three games to teams with elite ground attacks in Army, Louisiana and Ole Miss.

The Rebels tripled the national average in explosive drive rate, while Louisiana posted a healthy 62% Success Rate in standard downs.

The good news for the Flames is Eastern Michigan's decrease in rush rate, moving to a more balanced offense that has the most success through the air. Liberty has a top-15 pass rush unit, defined by PFF as a collective number of sacks, pressures, hits and hurries.

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Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Eastern Michigan and Liberty match up statistically:

Liberty Offense vs. Eastern Michigan Defense
Rush Success19127
Line Yards4125
Pass Success58114
Pass Blocking**5419
Big Play58107
Finishing Drives2280
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Eastern Michigan Offense vs. Liberty Defense
Rush Success9465
Line Yards9180
Pass Success3917
Pass Blocking**5114
Big Play4957
Finishing Drives2360
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling2576
Middle 81231
SP+ Special Teams9210
Plays per Minute7960
Rush Rate57.1% (48)50.3% (94)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty Betting Pick

There is plenty of motivation on both sidelines, as Creighton has yet to win a bowl game despite covering in three previous efforts.

The Eagles have faced dual-threat quarterbacks previously this season, getting into a victorious shootout against Dequan Finn and Toledo. Eastern Michigan benefited from three turnovers against the Rockets and will need some fumble luck to keep up with the Flames.

Willis has all the motivation needed for his pro prospects, cutting his fumbles from 17 to just three but increasing his interceptions from six to 12. The great news is that the Eagles' ranks in all defensive metrics will provide no resistance to a Liberty offensive line that has struggled to keep defenders out of the backfield.

The Action Network projection makes Liberty an 8-point favorite after heavy downgrades throughout the month of November. The market value is currently on Eastern Michigan with expected game day steam to possibly push this number into double digits.

There are areas the Eagles can have success in to put points on the board. Creighton fields a top-10 unit in Special Teams SP+. The Eagles offense has been a top-25 unit in Finishing Drives, while the defense is also highly ranked in preventing explosive plays.

Our total projection of 55 is based on tempo, Success Rate and Finishing Drives. The market has been just shy of the biggest key number in totals of 59.

Although the Eastern Michigan defense has been one of the worst in the country, defusing explosive plays may help in getting a finishing score under the closing total.

There will be steam on game day behind Liberty. Look to pick off the key numbers for Eastern Michigan after heavy early action on Liberty, as any double-digit spread will serve as a great hedge spot for any opening bets made on the Flames' opener of -7.

Pick: Eastern Michigan +10 (-120) or Better

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