Earlier this season, we discussed the new challenges this season would bring for the Razorbacks. The last of these new challenges will be Saturday when Liberty comes to Fayetteville. The Hogs and Flames will meet for the first time in program history on the football field in what looks to be an exciting matchup. With Arkansas never facing the Flames, let’s look at who they are as a program, how they got here this season, and the x-factor of this team and game for Arkansas. Who are the Liberty Flames as a recent program? How did we get here this season? What or who is the X-factor for this team and game? We will answer all these questions and more about perhaps the most intriguing challenge on the schedule. What Challenge will Liberty be to Arkansas?
What Challenge Will Liberty Be To Arkansas?
Who are the Liberty Flames in Recent History?
The Liberty Flames hail from Lynchburg, Virginia and are independent at the FBS level. When they hired Hugh Freeze as their head coach in 2019, their program had seen some years of sustained success. Since hiring Freeze, the flames have won eight or more games in his three seasons at the helm. In his first season, they finished 8-5 and had a cure bowl victory. In 2020 they would finish 10-1, including another cure bowl victory and first-ever win over a top 25 in Coastal Carolina. Last season the flames would finish 8-5 and defeated Eastern Michigan in the Lending Tree Bowl. Liberty will be a difficult challenge for Arkansas and one that fans will not soon forget.
How Did They Get Here in 2022?
After an 8-5 season in 2021, the Flames are currently 7-1 and on a five-game winning streak. If not for a one-point loss to Wake Forest on September 17th, the Flames would be coming into Fayetteville unblemished. The flames average 31 points per game and give up 330 yards per game defensively. That ranks Liberty at number 50 offensively and 26 on the defensive side nationally. Liberty is coming off a 41-14 win at home against BYU.
That game at Williams Stadium set a stadium attendance record with 24,012 fans. In that game, the flames had 547yards of offense and did not give up a sack. The win against the cougars gave Liberty its fourth win streak of five or more games under Freeze. This team is a challenge that some Arkansas fans don’t want to see coming. Based on its recent history, Liberty presents a real challenge to Arkansas and is playing great football as of late.
There is one x-factor for Liberty and this game and its flames Coach Freeze. When you look at his history as a head coach, he is a proven winner wherever he has been. Under Freeze, the flames are 33-12 and 11-9 when playing on the road. He has led Liberty to heights, such as being one of two teams to win their first three bowl games after transitioning from FCS to FBS. Although the Flames are 5-8 when traveling more than 1000 miles or not, Freeze will have his team ready to play. Freeze can not only recruit, but he can develop talent. Liberty has had 17 players drafted into the NFL to further this point.
When it comes to this game, Arkansas will have to defend someone they know well. This season, Freeze comes to Fayetteville with a 0-2 record. This will be the second time that Liberty will play in front of a crowd of 60,000 or more in their program history. With Freeze at the helm, this team could get the biggest win of his tenure in their third-ever game against an SEC team. This challenge will be new and has an interesting x factor.
Who Wins at the Final Buzzer?
When Arkansas and Liberty line up for kickoff, it will be historic. With a talented and hot Liberty team coming into Fayetteville, Arkansas must start strong. Relying on Raheim “Rocket” Sanders and company to control the ball and clock will be crucial to getting past this challenge. Liberty comes in with a 5-6 record in November, and the Hogs look to make it seven losses. The Razorbacks must keep the number six ranked rushing offense on the field and running strong. Liberty does pass the ball well, but they also turn it over. The flames have had a turnover in 11 straight games. This will be the deciding factor in this challenge for the Hogs. Arkansas will run the ball and force extra possessions to continue to run past Freeze and the Flames. The Pittman Effect is strong in Fayetteville.