College football action on Saturday evening and we will see a team from the Independent ranks take on a squad from the Sun Belt Conference as the Liberty Flames duke it out with the Old Dominion Monarchs at S.B Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia. The Flames enter this game off a 21-12 home win over Akron to move to 3-1 on the year. ODU improved to 2-2 on the year after taking down Arkansas State 29-26 in their last game.
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Defense Steps Up Against AkronThe Liberty Flames were 8-5 last year, which included a 56-20 win over Eastern Michigan in the bowl game, but they were expected to take a step back this year with just 11 starters back, including only four on defense. Well, they didn't get the memo as the Flames have jumped out to a 3-1 start. There is still a long way to go in this season, but so far, they look like a solid team.
In their last game, the Flames took out Akron at home by a score of 21-12, but they did fail to cover the hefty 26-point spread in the contest. Still, it was the defense that stepped up in the game and lead them to victory. the defense had one bad game as they allowed 37 points to Wake forest, but that is one of the best offenses in the nation. Despite having just four starters back on defense, they have allowed just 17.4 ppg in their other three games this year. Liberty did allow 269 yards passing to the Zips, but they have allowed just 211.8 ypg through the air this year, which is 54th in the land. The pass defense may not be tested against a weak ODU passing game.
The Flames needed the defense to step up against the Zips as they were held to just 309 ypg of total offense in the contest. The passing game has been nothing like last year when they averaged 255 ypg, but they also don't have Malik Willis this year either. Johnathan Bennett hit just 13 of 27 passes for 152 yards in the win with two TDs and one INT. He has now completed just 41.7% of his passes with two TDs and four INTs on the year. Liberty hopes to have QB Kaidon Salter back, who is nursing an ankle injury. He has thrown for 606 yards with four TDs and three INTs on the year and is listed as questionable. The Flames are now 102nd in the nation in passing, but the running game does rank a solid 38th and ODU has not been great at stopping the run.
ODU Squeaks By Arkansas StateThe Sun Belt Conference is turning into a solid league and is no longer the worst-ranked conference in the land. Old Dominion has left the Independent Ranks to join this league and so far is been average for them. They are 1-0 in league play after squeaking by Arkansas State 29-26 in their last game but are just 2-2 overall. The Monarchs have been in many close games so far as three of their four games have been decided by 3 points or less. That will give most coaches heartaches and they could be in store for another close one here.
The Monarchs have 10 starters back on offense, but still, they come in ranked 115th in total offense, 76th in passing, 126th in rushing, and 109th in scoring, putting up just 21.0 ppg. That is nearly a TD less than the 27.6 ppg they hung up a year ago. it will not get easier for them here as they are facing a solid defensive squad in the Flames. OD had its best offensive showing in the win over Arkansas State as they scored 29 points on 330 yards of total offense. Hayden Wolf had a solid game in throwing for 279 yards with two TDs and no INTs. Last year, he threw 10 TD but had seven INTs. This year, he has seven TDs and just one INT so far. Ali Jennings III had a big game with 140 yards receiving and a TD, but he will be facing a good secondary in this one.
The ODU defense allowed 27.8 ppg last year, but they come into this game having allowed just 24.5 ppg on the year. The Monarch will give up yards though, as they come in ranked 116th in total yards allowed per game, 97th against the pass, and 112th against the run. They will be facing a struggling offense in this one and one that could be without its number one guy behind center. The Red Wolves threw for 285 yards against them in the win, so ODU has to be hoping that they are facing Johnathan Bennett in this one.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Old Dominion has the experience edge in this one, but the Flames still have the talent edge, especially on defense. The Flames come in ranked 53rd in total defense compared to ODU ranking 116th. Liberty has a good running game that ranks 38th in the nation and they will run the ball down ODUs throat as their run defense is 112th in the nation. That will then lead to Liberty getting some big plays in the passing game. The Monarchs have struggled on offense so far, putting up just 21.0 ppg while Liberty has allowed just 17.6 ppg in their three non-power five games. Lastly, the Flames are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games following a straight up win while ODU is 2-5 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Full-Game Total Pick
This game could see a lot of wet conditions from Tropical Storm Ian, but even without the weather, it will be a low-scoring game. The Monarchs have given up plenty of yards this year but they have allowed just 24.5 ppg and the Liberty offense has not been great overall. Liberty has been all about the run in the early part of the season and their 38th-ranked ground game will run the ball a lot against ODU's 112th-ranked run defense. That will chew up plenty of the clock. The ODU offense has sputtered in the early going, putting up just 21.0 ppg and Liberty has allowed just 22.5 ppg. I don't see ODU getting to their mark in this one while Liberty will struggle to score as well. Lastly, the Under is 5-1 in Old Dominion's last 6 home games.