College football bowl games just get it right every now and then and that appears to be the case for this year’s Cure Bowl, which caps off a three-game slate of bowl games Saturday with a great matchup. This season’s Cure Bowl features No. 12 Coastal Carolina and Liberty, who are both having breakout years with hot commodity coaches.
The Chanticleers are looking to finish off an undefeated season that’s already featured a Sun Belt co-championship with Louisiana since the game was canceled due to COVID-19. They also beat Louisiana earlier in the season 30-27. Coastal also played in one of the 2020 season’s more entertaining games — a last-minute scheduling agreement with BYU, which it won in dramatic fashion 22-17. For his efforts, coach Jamey Chadwell has garnered some Power Five interest this coaching cycle, but has opted to stay with Coastal Carolina.
Liberty is also enjoying its best season since joining the FBS, and this will be the program’s second bowl trip. Like Chadwell, Liberty coach Hugh Freeze has been a focal point of the some SEC vacancies this coaching cycle, but he remains with the Flames. The interest is understandable. Liberty’s offense ranks in the top 20 in points per game and yards per game. Quarterback Malik Willis, a transfer from Auburn, has been one of the most electrifying playmakers in the country.
These two schools have actually met 14 times before, mostly at the FCS and Independent levels. They have split those meetings 7-7 with Coastal Carolina winning the most recent game in 2016, 42-7. So who wins this showdown in Orlando of teams enjoying tons of success in 2020? Let’s take a closer look at the matchups and storylines to follow before making some expert picks both straight up and against the spread.
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Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers’ offense has been given a greater spotlight this year because of the team’s success. Though redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall has been the biggest name — he’ll end the year as the Sun Belt’s top passer — the amount of option and misdirection looks this group shows is what makes it so difficult to defend. Coastal ranks in the top 10 nationally with 29 rushing touchdowns. Only Georgia Southern ran the ball more effectively out of the Sun Belt in the regular season. Four players, including McCall, average at least seven attempts per game. The decision to grind out clock against BYU was a big reason why it was able to win. But there are weapons in the passing game, too. Receiver Jaivon Heiligh leads all pass-catchers with 820 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tight end Isaiah Likely is a name to watch, too, especially as a NFL prospect.
Liberty: As mentioned above, Willis is a playmaker for the Flames’ offense. He ranks just outside the top 10 nationally in total yards per game (316.3) and should eclipse 3,000 total yards for the season. What Freeze has done with him in one season after sitting out in 2019 due to NCAA transfer rules has been remarkable. The Flames are good about spreading the ball around and in doing so there’s a remarkable amount of efficiency and explosiveness — Liberty is tied with Clemson at No. 14 nationally in yards per play and ninth in plays of at least 30 yards.
Game: Cure Bowl
Date: Saturday, Dec. 26 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium — Orlando, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Cure Bowl prediction, picks
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
With so much to love about these two offenses, it would be easy to think about banging the over at 59.5. That may end up coming to fruition, but Coastal’s approach to beating BYU also could show up here. Liberty has an explosive offense and the best way to keep that offense on the sidelines is by slowing the game down. The Chanticleers have been great at controlling the line of scrimmage and that gives them an edge straight up. But Willis and some big plays can keep this thing within a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Pick: Liberty +7.5 | Coastal Carolina 31, Liberty 27
So who wins Coastal Carolina vs. Liberty? And which side of the spread hits well over 50 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to back, all from the proven model on a 55-35 run on its top-rated college football picks this season.