Liberty vs. Troy Odds, Prediction Pick: Betting Value on Trojans in Week 2 College Football Game (September 11)
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Chip Lindsey.
- Troy and Liberty meet in Week 2 college football action on Saturday night.
- The Flames enter as small favorites, but Stuckey thinks there's value on the Trojans
- Check out Stuckey's full betting guide, complete with updated odds and a pick below.
Liberty vs. Troy Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
As expected, both Liberty and Troy opened the season with easy home victories over FCS schools. These two teams split meetings in the early 1990s but have only met once as FBS schools back in 2018, when Liberty pulled out a close win with a late touchdown.
So which team will get off to a 2-0 start? Let’s take a closer look at each team before diving into which side I fancy from a betting perspective.
Liberty, Liberty, Liberty. Liberty.
Hugh Freeze has fans of the Lynchburg, Va., program singing that jingle after a 10-1 2020 season and most of the same team coming back for another tour.
That 10-1 record also included two victories over Power Five teams (Virginia Tech, Syracuse) and an overtime bowl win against a top-20 Coastal Carolina squad. The lone loss came by one-point against NC State after the Flames had a game-winning field goal attempt blocked with 90 seconds remaining.
The offense is led by dual-threat quarterback Malik Willis, who led the team in rushing last year with just under 1,000 yards on the ground. The Auburn transfer, who has caught the attention of NFL scouts, will work behind one of the nation’s most experienced offensive lines that returns all five starters and the entire two-deep.
Top running back Joshua Mack, who leads all active FBS players in career rushing yards, returns along with eight of the top nine pass catchers from last season, led by a pair of seniors in wide receiver DJ Stubbs and tight end Johnny Huntley.
The statuses of projected starting wide receiver Noah Frith, who didn’t play in the opener due to injury, and starting left guard Damion Bounds, who suffered an injury in Week 1, remain uncertain.
Led by a dynamic rushing attack, this RPO-heavy unit can put up points and do it in a hurry, working at one of the fastest paces in the nation.
Despite losing seven starters, the Liberty defense finished in the top-25 nationally last season.
Now, heading into 2021, the Flames return nine starters and added a number of transfers with starting experience who will contribute right away, including safety Skylar Thomas (Washington State) and cornerback Duron Lowe (UTEP), both of whom started in Week 1.
Two other new starters on the field for Week 1 included freshman middle linebacker Ahmad Walker and another transfer in former FCS All-American Storey Jackson, who came to Liberty from Prairie View A&M. Walker has the tough task of replacing star linebacker Anthony Butler, who got a shot with the Colts after going undrafted.
The Flames run defense remains a bit vulnerable, but the secondary has numerous playmakers. First-Team All-Independent Javon Scruggs will make plays all over the field as the rover.
It also helps that Liberty can really get after opposing quarterbacks with defensive ends Durrell Johnson and TreShaun Clark. That duo combined for 21.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last season.
I expect a major improvement across the board in the third year of head coach Chip Lindsey’s tenure. He will have a very experienced roster to work with one season after losing four games by a combined 12 points.
Troy was right on the precipice of bowl eligibility, despite those close losses and dealing with quarterback injuries as well as a major bout with COVID-19 during the season.
There’s a new starting quarterback in town, as Missouri transfer Taylor Powell won a competition over the two quarterbacks who started for Troy last year — Gunnar Watson and Jacob Free. From a pure talent perspective, this is a substantial upgrade.
Troy will have to replenish its wide receiver room with three of four starters no longer with the team after Kaylon Geiger transferred to Texas Tech this past spring. There’s still talent on the outside, though, and the rest of the offense should take a step forward.
The running back room is loaded with depth and experience, while the offensive line returns all five starters, led by two All-Sun Belt players in left tackle Austin Stidham and center Dylan Bradshaw.
This front is the unit I expect to take the biggest leap for Troy this season, which should have a positive ripple effect throughout the entire offense. After replacing three starters last year, the Trojans showed significant signs of progress as the season wore on, allowing only five sacks over the final five games after allowing 17 in the first six.
The defense returns all but one starter from last season in cornerback Terence Dunlap, but the Trojans brought in a pair of transfers to fill his void.
The linebacker corps is this defense’s strength, led by tackling machine Carlton Martial, who will have a chance to lead the nation in tackles in 2021. He has all of his running mates back, and the depth is extremely strong with a pair of Big 10 transfers.
I also expect the defensive line to improve after returning the entire two-deep and bringing in Florida State transfer Jamarcus Chatman to bolster the defensive tackle position. In the defensive backfield, getting starting safety Markeis Colvin back from injury should help a group that lost only one primary contributor.
Overall, this should look more like the respectable Troy defenses of a few years ago.
Liberty vs. Troy Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Liberty and Troy match up statistically:
Liberty Offense vs. Troy Defense
Troy Offense vs. Liberty Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Last year, Troy struggled to run the ball, but I expect them to have success against a vulnerable Liberty rush defense with what I project as a significantly improved offensive line and a deep running back room. The strength of the Liberty defense lies in the secondary and generating pressure, but those are two areas of strength for the Trojans, especially with an upgrade at quarterback.
These two teams approach offense much differently. Troy plays much slower and has a pass-first offense, while Liberty plays at a warp speed and features a dominant rushing attack.
Also, keep in mind that Liberty’s statistical profile benefited from a very favorable schedule overall. More on that later.
Liberty vs. Troy Betting Pick
I project this game under a field goal, so I scooped up +5.5 earlier in the week. I’d still play down to +4 and like a few matchups for a Trojans team I had circled as a play-on team early in the season.
I also have serious doubts about how good this Liberty defense really is. Last season, it only allowed an uber-impressive 20.5 points per game — over a full touchdown lower than 2019 — even with a schedule that included three Power 5 teams.
However, the Flames certainly benefited from playing five anemic FBS offenses (WKU, FIU, UL Monroe, Southern Miss and UMass) in addition to two FCS schools (North Alabama and Western Carolina).
Their numbers were certainly helped by playing those teams in seven of their 10 regular-season games. And it’s not like Syracuse lit up the scoreboard last year.
Liberty did hold its own against NC State, holding the Pack to 15 points, but the Flames had already lost their starting quarterback for the year. While there is some talent on that side of the ball, this is still a defense that allowed 35 and 38 points to Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina.
Troy should have ample opportunities to put points on the board against a Liberty team I think is a bit overvalued in the market.