Liberty vs. Virginia Tech Betting Odds & Pick: Saturday’s Value Sits on Each Side
Michael Shroyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Chamarri Conner (22).
- Hugh Freeze and the Liberty Flames will travel to Virginia Tech's home turf on Saturday to take on Justin Fuentes and the Hokies.
- The Flames hold moneyline value in the matchup, according to Mike Calabrese.
- Check out Calabrese's full betting analysis with updated odds below.
Liberty vs. Virginia Tech Betting Odds
|Liberty Odds||+16.5 [BET NOW]|
|Virginia Tech Odds||-16.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+480/-680 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||68.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 12 p.m. ET|
In a regular year, Coastal Carolina would be far and away the most surprising team to grace the AP Top 25. But here in 2020, if you’re looking for an out-of-the-blue, truly unforeseen tale of a ranked team that is punching above its weight, look no further than Liberty.
Three years ago, the Flames were a middling FCS program that hadn’t crashed the lower level’s postseason party since 2014. Fast forward to this season, and they have a former Maxwell Coach of the Year semifinalist as their head coach, a reclamation project turned Heisman sleeper at quarterback, and one of the nation’s best pass defenses. That combination has translated to a 6-0 start and a spot among the FBS elites. Now comes the pressure.
Liberty has been installed as a 14.5-point underdog this weekend in Blacksburg, making LU the largest underdog since 2011 (Texas Tech +11 at Oklahoma State). The Flames actually opened as 19-point underdogs, making them the biggest underdog at open in the last 35 years. Liberty already owns an outright upset as a 14.5-point dog (30-24 over Western Kentucky), so should Virginia Tech be nervous? Absolutely.
Virginia Tech Hokies
If the Hokies bring their A-game to this intrastate rivalry, we’re looking at a VT blowout. If they come out flat and spot Liberty an early lead as they did against Wake Forest, the Flames’ Cinderella story could continue. Whether it’s been COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the Hokies roster or Hendon Hooker’s struggles through the air during VT’s two losses, it’s fair to say that Justin Fuente’s team is experiencing the kind of variance necessary for a major letdown.
This is the same Hokies program that dropped a game to Old Dominion and needed to recover an onside kick to avert a disastrous loss to Furman over the last two years. With Liberty north of 4:1 on the moneyline, I’m inclined to roll the dice, banking on VT looking ahead to a home tilt with No. 11 Miami (FL) next week.
I also have concerns about Justin Hamilton’s defense. In Virginia Tech’s most recent defensive performance, Louisville dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham was able to move the ball with ease against the Hokies. Cunningham accounted for 397 total yards and three touchdowns, and he shares a lot of similarities with Liberty’s Malik Willis. The only real difference between the two is that Cunningham has been a turnover machine (11 turnovers), while Willis has been reliable with the ball in his hands (two lost fumbles, one interception). In a turnover neutral game, I think Willis could keep Liberty within a possession.
One final point of emphasis in this contest? Game flow. The first four possessions of this game will be critical, because if Virginia Tech falls behind, it won’t be able to rely as heavily on its running game as it would like. In an ideal situation, the Hokies’ ground attack would approach 300 rushing yards in this game without breaking a sweat. However, if Liberty can seize a lead and force Hooker to put the ball in the air on early downs, I see that being problematic for the favorite.
As I noted above, the Virginia Tech defense has had its fair share of struggles this year. It’s why it checks in at 11th in both run and pass defense in the ACC. Liberty is scoring 40 points per game and has improved week-to-week for two straight months. The Flames can beat you on the ground (5.6 yards per carry, 11th) or through the air (67% completion rate, 24th), and they made quick work of Syracuse on the road a few weeks back with a 38-21 victory.
Then there’s Hugh Freeze. Setting aside his personal shortcomings, Freeze helped Ole Miss improve its win total year-over-year for consecutive seasons after he arrived in Oxford. Once he installed his system and found his quarterback, he posted an 8-5 record SU and ATS against ranked opponents during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. When Freeze faces a daunting opponent, the stage certainly isn’t too big for him.
I view this game as I would a first-round matchup between the No. 5-seed and No. 12-seed during March Madness. Liberty has pounded a poor schedule and built up quite a bit of confidence in the process. Virginia Tech, while supremely talented, has already fallen flat a few times this year. And despite the new shiny number next to Liberty on the ACC Network chyron, all of the pressure will fall on the home team should it fall behind early in this one.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This play may not be for everyone, but I’ve found success handicapping high-variance games in the following manner: underdog ML (1 unit), favorite ATS (1 unit). Yes, there is a middle large enough to drive a truck through, but I really believe the two most likely outcomes here are a single-digit Liberty upset or a three touchdown-plus shellacking powered by a dominant Hokie rushing attack.
Picks: Liberty +425 (1 unit); Virginia Tech -14.5 (1 unit)