G.W. Gras

Senior Writer for The Bears Brawl and Lead Host of The Bears Brawl Podcast.

The Line: Liberty +17.5 at Syracuse

Over / Under: 66

Hugh Freeze was building something really special in Ole Miss until he was forced to resign in 2019 due to recruiting violations. His reputation was tarnished, credibility was damaged and about 30 Ole Miss games were vacated off the “official NCAA record.

Source: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images North America

Freeze is now forced to try to reset his career coaching the Liberty Flames. No more of the SEC glory and fandom, he now resides in Lynchburg, VA – coaching an Independent team, at a stadium, if when fully attended, holds about 40,000 less screaming fans. . . Regardless of all that, the Liberty landed themselves a really good coach.

Freeze runs a fast-paced offense, and has a senior quarterback in Stephen Buckshot Calvert who isn’t afraid to sling the ball. Which is a good thing, and a bad thing as told by his 18 interceptions last season which were only three shy of his touchdown total. Early word has it, Freeze is going to work his freshman quarterback Johnathan Bennett into a two-quarterback system (which is no surprise to those who watched him coach at Ole Miss). Bennett is the “future” of Freeze’s system who is a dual-threat on the field.

The offensive line isn’t too shabby and worked hard to give running back Frankie Hockson a 1000 yard season. Expect Hockson to share the workload with last year’s leading rusher of the FCS, former Maine Black Bears running back Joshua Mack. Early at a Freeze stay, Mack’s decision to join Liberty is pretty eye-brow-raising. . .

Last season, Liberty finished 6-6 and that was because they took advantage of their “Independent” status and had a pretty soft schedule. They kind of did that again this year, but they open up the schedule against Syracuse. A team, that under head coach Dino Babers, is anything but soft.

Syracuse was favorite at Beating Vegas last season and for good reason. Babers was able to put up 40 points a game with this offense and if it wasn’t for some “pesky” Clemson team scoring 44 a game, that would’ve been tops in the ACC. Gone from that offense is quarterback Eric Dungey, who was the undeniable star of the team, but word on the street is – sophomore Tommy DeVito will be even better. There was talk of DeVito leaving the program, but that was all nonsense – he was content waiting for his time to shine in this offense.

Source: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America

Where Syracuse lacks in line-backers they make up for it up front and in the back.

Here is where Freeze will run into problems with Syracuse.

Freeze will be using two quarterbacks – one of them a freshman, to deliver this uptempo attack in the first game of the season. That’s asking a lot, considering one of them is a freshman and the other is inconsistent to begin with. Babers is coaching one of his most talented units and is in line for another impressive season at Syracuse. Remember, this is the team that lost by four points to Clemson last year (on the flip side they were the same team that got embarrassed by Notre Dame as well. . .). The Liberty’s defense will be on the field for much longer than they can sustain for a full four-quarters and Syracuse will pull away easily in the second half.

The Pick: Syracuse -17.5