The Troy Trojans will be trying to extend their winning streak to six games when they visit the Liberty Flames at Williams Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Troy most recently defeated Georgia State last Thursday, improving to 5-1 for the season. The Flames are 1-3 in their last four contests following a loss at New Mexico State.
Next man up
Troy is off to a strong start this season, but its 37-20 victory over Georgia State this past week came at a price. Head coach Neal Brown broke the next shortly thereafter.
“The win came with a cost; (quarterback) Kaleb Barker tore his ACL,” Brown announced. “He will be out the remainder of the season. I hate if for him because I think his first quarter on Thursday night was probably…and we’ve had a bunch of good quarterbacks…but I think that’s probably as good as any quarterback has played in my eight years here.”
— Troy Trojans Football 5x⚔️ (@TroyTrojansFB) October 8, 2018
Barker racked up 247 total yards (136 through the air, 111 on the ground) and two passing touchdowns before leaving. He was 92-of-126 for the year with 1,013 yards, 10 TDs, and two interceptions to go along with 261 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. There is some good news for the Trojans, which is that Sawyer Smith looks like a capable replacement. The sophomore, whom Brown named the starter for Saturday’s date with Liberty, has gotten playing time in all six contests and is 22-of-34 for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Also a dual-threat, Smith has 153 rushing yards to his credit.
Hickson to the rescue
With fellow running back Kentory Matthews sidelined by a knee injury that he sustained on Sept. 22, Liberty’s Frankie Hickson has seen his workload increase on a consistent basis. Hickson got seven touches (five carries, two receptions) through the first two weeks of the season. The junior has since gotten 21 touches, 28 touches, and 27 touches. He probably would have gotten even more in last week’s 49-41 loss to New Mexico State, but the Flames trailed basically the entire game–including by 14 points on three different occasions–and had to take to the air more often than they would have liked. Hickson delivered a huge performance with 155 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. He also had three receptions for 13 yards. The Lynchburg, Va. native’s previous best outing of the 2018 campaign saw him go for 96 yards on 21 carries in a 47-7 loss to North Texas after Matthews left with his injury.
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) October 7, 2018
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Jeremy Peters was cleared to play this past weekend after leaving the previous contest against New Mexico in the third quarter due to injury. The senior captain recorded five solo tackles (one for loss) and one pass defensed. Liberty allowed a combined 771 passing yards and eight touchdowns to its two opponents in the state of New Mexico in the last two weeks.
The Liberty Flames are:
- 4-1 Under in their last five games against teams with winning records
- 7-2 Under in their last nine games on fieldturf
- 7-3 Under in their last 10 games after allowing more than 450 yards in their previous game
The Troy Trojans are:
- 4-0-1 ATS in their last five overall
- 19-7 ATS in their last 26 road games
- 4-0 ATS in their last four road games against teams with losing home records
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Liberty is only getting nine points (the spread opened at +11), likely due to Barker’s injury. Unfortunately for the Flames, Smith looks like he will be able to at least come close to filling the starter’s shoes. Even with Peters at least somewhat healthy, Liberty’s passing defense looks nothing more than hopeless.
Prediction: Troy Trojans
Full-Game Total Pick
Troy is playing with a backup quarterback–albeit a solid one. Liberty’s offense has been wildly inconsistent, twice scoring no more than 14 points. The under is 12-4-1 in the Trojans’ last 17 on the road, 10-3-1 in their last 14 on fieldturf, and 11-5 in their last 16 against losing opponents. It is also 4-1 in the Flames’ last five against winning opponents and 7-2 in their last nine on fieldturf. Look for this one to stay under the total.