Toledo vs. Liberty Boca Raton Bowl Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/20/22)
Liberty cratered late in the season amid rumors of coach Hugh Freeze’s exit. With Freeze now officially at the helm of Auburn, could the Flames regain their form? MAC champion Toledo also struggled late in the year but still knocked off Ohio to win a conference title. Now, the Rockets will have a chance to prove themselves in Boca Raton.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl.
Toledo vs. Liberty Odds
Toledo enters the Boca Raton Bowl as a 5-point favorite, sitting at -200 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 54 points.
Liberty was the better team this season, but the Flames have been dealt a few losses since November. Freeze is out, and new head coach Jamey Chadwell won’t take the reins until after the bowl. Liberty also missed leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter down the stretch and lost three players to the transfer portal (though not critical pieces). That makes Toledo the betting favorite, but it also might make Liberty a decent value.
Toledo vs. Liberty Prediction & Pick
I’m buying into the idea Liberty was a team overcome by distractions down the stretch. That doesn’t mean this is the same Flames team that beat Arkansas in November, but the personnel hasn’t changed dramatically enough for that win to just be dismissed.
Liberty lost close games to UConn and Virginia Tech in November before getting trounced by New Mexico State when Freeze already had one foot out the door. It’s fair to worry about Liberty’s offense considering Toledo played well defensively in the MAC Title Game and QB Johnathan Bennett had a very tough time down the stretch. The offense also didn’t run as smoothly without Hunter.
It’s not the most ideal matchup, but the talent advantage still lies with the Flames, who played sound defense this season and played well against tough competition. Liberty +5 is the better pick with the Freeze saga fully behind this team.
Toledo vs. Liberty Key Matchups
Toledo and Liberty both bring strong pass defenses into this game. Both held opponents to just under 200 passing yards per game this season, and Toledo is coming off a shutdown of Ohio’s offense in the MAC Championship.
That was, however, against a backup quarterback. Just two weeks earlier, the Rockets allowed 42 points to Bowling Green at home, including 246 yards to one receiver alone. Liberty doesn’t have a spectacular passing game in the post-Malik Willis era, but it’s not impossible that the Flames have a big day through the air.
Turnovers will be key. Toledo QB DeQuan Finn has had his highlights this season, including a six-touchdown performance against Kent State in October, but he also came out and threw four interceptions against Buffalo a week later. With seven interceptions over his last four games, a stretch that included an injury absence, Finn has much to prove and little time to prove it.
Toledo’s turnover margin is poor, while Liberty’s is better but still slightly below average. Forcing turnovers by Finn would of course give the Flames a major advantage.
When Finn isn’t committing turnovers, Toledo has a pretty solid offense. The Rockets scored 27+ points in seven of their last nine games, and Finn’s mobility alongside RB Jacquez Stuart gives this team a strong rushing attack. Liberty’s run defense isn’t as strong as its pass defense, but it’s still a solid unit that will need to show up in Boca Raton.
As an independent team, it’s worth considering that Liberty’s defensive ranks might be better in a conference like the MAC. The Flames took on Wake Forest, Arkansas, BYU, and Virginia Tech. They lost by a point against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and came away with wins over Arkansas and Wake Forest. This Liberty team isn’t exactly what it was midseason, but it’s a battle-tested group that might have the experience Toledo doesn’t.