Central Oregon DailyOregon is 17 1/2-point favorite over Liberty in Fiesta Bowl

Oregon is 17 1/2-point favorite over Liberty in Fiesta Bowl

Oregon is 17 1/2-point favorite over Liberty in Fiesta Bowl

Bo Nix Oregon Ducks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) 鈥 No. 18聽Liberty聽rolled through its sixth season as a Division I program undefeated, earning a spot in Monday鈥檚 Fiesta Bowl.

Awaiting the Flames in the desert is something unlike anything they鈥檝e faced, maybe ever: the big, bad聽Oregon Ducks.

鈥淚t doesn鈥檛 take a lot of time to watch the video to know how talented they are,鈥 Liberty coach Jamey Chadwell said. 鈥淲e shared with them (the team), and I think I鈥檝e said it before, they鈥檙e six points away from playing for a national championship. That鈥檚 how good they are. Going into championship weekend, they were the favorites to win the national championship. They鈥檙e tremendous.鈥

Oddsmakers certainly think so.

No. 8 Oregon is a 17 1/2-point favorite, according to聽FanDuel Sportsbook, one of the most lopsided betting lines during bowl season.

The Ducks (11-2) steamrolled through their schedule, outside of two games against No. 2 Washington, one of four College Football Playoff teams. Oregon lost by three in both games, including the Pac-12 title game.

The Ducks are led by quarterback Bo Nix, a Heisman Trophy finalist who has put up gaudy numbers and has a chance to break the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage.

Oregon has one of the best offensive lines in the country, a group that allowed an FBS-low five sacks this season. The Ducks鈥 past-blocking grade of 92.0 is the best in the country, according to Pro Football Focus.

Oregon鈥檚 defense has been just as good, finishing 12th against the run (97.5 yards per game) while giving up 10 points or less six times.

The Ducks aren鈥檛 about to take the Flames lightly, either.

鈥淪everal of the players on their team started off at Power Five schools and I don鈥檛 know if everybody realizes this, they鈥檝e won every single game they鈥檝e played,鈥 Oregon coach Dan Lanning said with a touch of sarcasm. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 a pretty good team and our players recognize that.鈥

OVERCOMING TRAGEDY

Liberty (13-0) has played the best season in program history despite enduring a tragedy before it even started.

Early in camp, freshman offensive lineman聽Tajh Boyd died, ruled by the medical examiner as a suicide.

The Flames bonded around their fallen teammate throughout the season.

鈥淲hen things like that happen, you can either fall apart or you can make it a point to be around each other and be together, and try to stay together,鈥 Liberty offensive lineman X鈥橺avea Gadlin said. 鈥淲e really did that.鈥

NIX鈥橲 DECISION

No one would have blamed Nix for skipping the Fiesta Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.

The senior had already proved himself during the regular season, throwing for 4,145 yards and 40 touchdowns with three interceptions. His completion percentage of 77.2% is right behind the record of 77.4% set by Alabama鈥檚 Mac Jones in 2020.

Nix wasn鈥檛 interested in riding off without his teammates.

鈥淵ou go the whole season, you鈥檙e playing and you鈥檙e going week by week, and things get crazy,鈥 Nix said. 鈥淲hen you get to the bowl game, it鈥檚 like your last hurrah for the whole team and your last time to be together to maximize that time with your teammates and coach.鈥

RUNNING FLAMES

Oregon鈥檚 offensive line may have had the nation鈥檚 best grades, but Liberty鈥檚 group is also first class.

Liberty arrives in the desert with the nation鈥檚 best rushing attack at 302.9 yards per game 鈥 more than 20 ahead of Air Force, the next closest team.

The Flames also are the only team in FBS with two 1,000-yard rushers.

Quinton Cooley is 13th nationally with 1,322 yards and quarterback Kaidon Salter added 1,064. Salter also has thrown for 31 touchdowns and accounted for 43, both school records.

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