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Preview, How to Watch: Army travels to Liberty

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Army needs victories against Liberty and Navy to keep its hopes of another 10-win season alive.

NCAA Football: Bucknell at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday will mark just the second meeting between the Black Knights and the Flames. The last time these two teams met was in 2018, right after Liberty’s move from FCS up to FBS play. Army put up over 500 yards of offense in the 38-14 home victory at Michie Stadium.

And despite similar records (Army 7-3, Liberty 7-4), sportsbooks have the Flames favored in this contest. Army hasn’t shown the consistent dominance that powered an 11-2 performance back in 2018, but they’ve played well enough to close out “must-win” games and even keep pace with an electric Wake Forest offense in a 70-56 barnburner.

Offense

So far this season, there’s been a correlation between Army playing well and the offensive incorporating an effective passing element. As we saw last week, QB Christian Anderson had trouble connecting with receivers (2 of 12) against UMass and the Minutemen hung in the game right up until the fourth quarter. Conversely, the Black Knights went 3 of 4 against Bucknell with 15+ yards per completion average and won handily, 63-10.

Army will also need repeat performances and consistency from other key playmakers such as Tyrell Robinson (broke off an 87-yard TD run last week) and Jakobi Buchanan, Army’s short-yardage specialist. The Black Knights have also been rotating QBs Anderson, Jabari Laws, and Tyhier Tyler to great effect, so we’ll see if that trend continues against Liberty.

The Flames are led by QB Malik Willis, who has been named to watchlists for multiple awards such as the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Davey O’Brien Award. Willis boasts over 2300 yards passing, 23 passing TDs (against 11 interceptions), and is also Liberty’s leading rusher with 783 yards and 10 rushing TDs.

With Willis at the helm, the Flames are averaging over 430 yards per game (246 passing, 185 rushing) with freshman WR Demario Douglas being a favorite target. Douglas has amassed 652 yards on 45 receptions and 5 touchdowns.

Defense

Army’s defense has been tremendous all season long (with the lone exception against Wake Forest) led in large part by the play of Andre Carter. Just last weekend against Bucknell, the junior LB recorded three sacks to regain his national lead and set Army’s new single-season sack record at 13.5.

The Black Knights defense has also forced 13 turnovers over the course of the season, with four of them coming last week against Bucknell. The team allows just 106 yards per game rushing and 212 yards per game passing.

The Flames have an effective defense led by Storey Jackson (83 tackles, 6 sacks, and an interception) that allows an average of 180 yards passing and 134 yards rushing. However, the Black Knights average over 300 yards on the ground, so we’ll get a sense of just how good Liberty really is at stopping the run.

In terms of turnovers, the Flames have recorded 8 interceptions, but just two forced fumbles recovered. 10 turnovers isn’t a bad statistic, but since Army will likely be running more than passing, it doesn’t seem like Liberty will be able to capitalize the way it might like to against a more pass-heavy team.

Things to Consider

  1. Army vs the Trap Game. The Black Knights are bowl-eligible already, and the biggest game of the season, Army/Navy looms on the horizon. This has all the makings of a dangerous trap game if Army doesn’t show up focused and ready to play against a talented Liberty squad.
  2. Liberty’s Home Advantage. Much like Army, Liberty plays well at home and is currently 4-1 at Williams Stadium while out-scoring opponents 210-96. Conversely, the Black Knights have not traveled well in 2021, with just one road win at Georgia State back in Week 1.

This is another winnable game for Army, but they’re playing a talented team that’ll make them earn everything. The Black Knights need to bring the same focus, consistency, and dominance that earned them a victory of Liberty back in 2018. The road to another 10-win season under Jeff Monken requires a win this Saturday before Army can worry about anything else, such as Army/Navy or a bowl game.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 12 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, Nov. 27

Watch: ESPN+ — the call can also be heard for free via the Varsity Network app.

Where: Williams Stadium – Lynchburg, VA

Spread: As of this writing, FanDuel has Liberty favored at -3.5, with the over-under at 52.5.