The 6th edition of the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl will feature one of the most underrated matchups between two Group of Five schools. The 2020 Cure Bowl will feature a highly anticipated matchup between the #9 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-0) and the #23 Liberty Flames (9-1). This is the first time in Cure Bowl history that either team will be ranked in the AP Poll. There is more riding on this matchup than just a battle for superiority among G5 conferences.
This bowl will be a deciding factor on which team will have an early lead on the recruiting trail for undervalued prospects. The Chanticleers come into this game as the 7.5-point favor over the Flames. The most difficult aspect of this bowl game is that the Chanticleers and the Flames are highly equivalent in terms of productivity on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
2020 Cure Bowl Preview: #9 Coastal Carolina versus #23 Liberty
Coastal Carolina Comes In With a Well-Balanced Offense
There are many indications of why Coastal Carolina has a perfect season. For one, the Chanticleers have one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Their offense ranks 18th in the nation in points per game (37.5) and 25th in total yards per game (441.7). Their spread-option offense has been surprisingly efficient with redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall. In his first year as a starter, McCall has passed for 2,170 yards, 23 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 185.9 on 151 completions (out of 218 passing attempts). He also rushed for 473 yards and six touchdowns on 96 carries. Senior leading back Torrance Marable has rushed for 844 yards and 12 touchdowns on 162 carries. The Chanticleers have four of their skilled players and an offensive lineman that was selected first-team All-Sun Belt Conference.
The Flames come into this game with one of the most efficient defenses in the entire nation. They are ranked 17th in points allowed per game (19.2), sixth in total yards allowed per game (282.1), and third in passing yards allowed per game (153.7). Their defense is highly efficient in stopping the passing game as they can get to the quarterback and break up passes. Outside linebacker Durrell Johnson has accounted for 10 tackles for loss and eight sacks this season. The defense of Liberty can make the offense of Coastal Carolina one-dimensional by crashing into the backfield and force them to throw the ball. Liberty’s defense has allowed a third-down conversion rate of 32% (42-of-129). This would be ideal for Liberty if they can force third and long situations.
Malik Willis’ Biggest Game Yet For Liberty
Liberty dual-threat quarterback Malik Willis has played in big games before as a former Auburn Tiger. This game will be his biggest game yet as the Flames’ starting quarterback. Liberty’s offense, under the leadership of Willis, is ranked 17th in the nation in points per game (38.3) and sixth in rushing yards per game (252.1). Willis has come a long way as a passer as he threw for 2,040 yards, 20 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 161.2 on 151 completions (out of 236 passing attempts) this season. He has also rushed for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns on 120 carries. The Flames’ RPO offense makes them one of the most elusive and dynamic offenses in the nation. They are highly efficient in getting the ball to their receivers, especially in the red zone.
Coastal Carolina has a defense that will challenge Liberty and its ability to consistently drive the ball down the field. Coastal’s defense ranks 15th in the nation in points allowed per game (18.7) and 36th in rushing yards allowed per game (138.3). Their defense has several key playmakers that consistently penetrate into the backfield. Their defense has accounted for 70.5 tackles for loss and 33 sacks in 11 games this season. Coastal Carolina has four defenders who have accounted for at-least nine tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Tarron Jackson (13.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks) and junior bandit Jeffrey Gunter (12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks). Finally, they have allowed only a 37% third-down conversion rate (52-of-139) all season. Willis can make one defender miss but they can make it difficult for him if they swarm the backfield.
Chanticleers Have Edge But It May Be Close
This will be a game that will be won in the trenches between both team’s offensive and defensive line. The most effective battle will be the Flames’ offensive line, who have allowed 21 sacks all season, and the Chanticleers’ aggressive defense. Much of Liberty’s success on offense will be dependent on well Willis will be able to extend plays and drives. Coastal Carolina might have more capable opportunities to score efficiently than Liberty. Their offensive line has allowed only 12 sacks throughout the season. As a program, the Chanticleers have more efficient playmakers rather than one star player in Willis. This game may be closer than just one touchdown at the end of the game which many experts believe Liberty can pull off the upset.
Coastal Carolina 34-30