Two teams with monumental seasons collide in hope of finishing their program best campaign’s as Liberty and Coastal Carolina meet in the Cure Bowl.
Roughly just a month ago, Coastal Carolina and Liberty were undefeated and making serious noise for a NY6 spot.
Instead, their seasons will finish just a day after Christmas in Orlando with the 9-1 Flames and the 11-0 Chanticleers colliding. For Coastal Carolina, this is by far, their best season in school history.
After three losing seasons at the FBS level, Jamey Chadwell’s squad broke through and was just one of two teams in CFB to finish with a top 20 defense and offense.
The Chanticleers are led into the Cure Bowl on offense by freshman quarterback Grayson McCall. He finished the regular season with 2,170 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, to just two interceptions. He’s also a threat with his legs as he rushed for 473 yards and six touchdowns.
McCall received many awards over the past few days, with receiving first team All-Sun Belt, Freshman of the Year, and Sun Belt Player of the Year. McCall was also named one of 12 finalists for The Manning Award.
Although McCall didn’t light up the box score or break any passing records, he was a very efficient passer and smart when using his legs. His surprisingly athletic ability was on display in the clip above with his ability to evade a few defenders and get a first down, on what could’ve been a loss.
McCall’s go-to target has been Junior Jaivon Heiligh. Heiligh finished his regular season with 820 yards and 10 touchdowns, nearly half of McCall’s passing touchdowns. Heiligh works in both the slot and outside receiver, as he uses his 6’2 height.
Defensively, Coastal brings a strong unit to the Cure Bowl led by the best duo of D-Lineman in the conference in Tarron Jackson and Jeffrey Gunter. They’ve combined for 26 TFL and 15 sacks on the season. The secondary is headed by one of the best corners in the country in D’Jordan Strong. He has five interceptions and four pass deflections on the season, including a touchdown.
Coastal is the first undefeated team to not make a NY6 bowl in the BCS era. They are a capable program that was deserving of a spot. More so, than other 2-3 loss teams that were selected.
For Liberty, they are lead on offense by their dynamic quarterback, more so than McCall. Auburn transfer Malik Willis has been spectacular for Hugh Freeze and the Flames, passing for 2,040 yards, 20 touchdowns, to just four interceptions. Willis might be more lethal with his legs, rushing for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Apart from Willis, Liberty’s rushing attack can be overwhelming, as they use three different running backs to carry the load. They averaged 252 rushing yards per game and kill defenses, with being able to switch backs to use fresh legs.
Similar to the running backs, Willis throws to a lot of different receivers, lead by DJ Stubbs. Defensively, Liberty has similar numbers to Coastal Carolina as they rank in the top 20 in points per game allowed.
However, Liberty does not make near as many impact plays and gives up more yards. They are led on defense by Durrell Johnson, with his 10 TFL and eight sacks on the season. The kicking game on the season has been less than stellar for Liberty as Alex Barbir is just 10 of 17 on the season. That could play a factor as the game rolls along.
Here’s how to watch the matchup the Cure Bowl between the Flames and the Chanticleers.
Date: December, 26th
Time: 7:30 ET
Venue: Camping World Stadium
Betting Lines: Coastal Carolina -4.5 (According to FanDuel)
Keys to a victory:
For Liberty, it will be a battle of strength vs. strength. Liberty’s ability of running the football against Coastal’s front line will be the biggest key to a victory. Willis is less of a game manager than McCall is and will want to take deep shots.
Coastal’s key to victory in this game is how much they can make Liberty one dimensional. Liberty does not have a stand out wide receiver and Willis ability to throw the football consistently hasn’t been amazing.
Willis has four games throwing for less than 200 yards and a three interception performance in their lone loss to North Carolina State. Coastal is one of the best teams in the country in forcing turnovers, especially from their secondary. Force a few Willis mistakes and it’s more time for McCall to operate.
BYU proved in their win over UCF that they deserved a NY6 bid. Regardless of outcome in the Cure Bowl, both of these teams had a solid case to make a premiere bowl game, more so Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers defense has been dominant and McCall was named Sun Belt Player of the Year for a reason.
The Chanticleers cap off a perfect season as the argument for a CFP change grows more and more. Cincinnati, BYU, and Coastal Carolina deserved a higher chance to compete on a bigger platform, to increase exposure.
Coastal Carolina 31, Liberty 20