LendingTree Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty

Dec. 18, 2021
Dan Dobish
VI Betting Expert

The Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5) battle the Liberty Flames (7-5) in the LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala. on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled at 5:45 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on ESPN.

Score Prediction

Liberty 38, Eastern Michigan 31

Best Bets

Eastern Michigan +9.5 (-110) at FanDuel

Over 58 (-110) at FanDuel

LendingTree Bowl Predictions

Neither of these teams finished the season particularly well, but they earned bowl eligibility just the same, and are happy to be headed for the Gulf Coast of Alabama for this postseason battle.

The Eagles of Eastern Michigan won three of their final five games, flexing a little offensive muscle in late October and early November before powering it down in November. The last time we saw EMU, they fell 31-10 in Mount Pleasant against Central Michigan on Nov. 26, posting the second-lowest point total of the season. This is a team which has 50-plus potential, including 55 and 52 in back-to-back road games at Bowling Green and Toledo from Oct. 23-Nov. 2.

The Flames of Liberty opened the season 7-2 following a 62-17 win against UMass on Oct. 30, but that’s the last time we saw success from the Flames. They were into freefall in the final three games, losing by 13 or more points in each of the outings against Ole Miss, Louisiana and Army. To be fair, at least all three of those teams are also bowl teams.

Eastern Michigan heads in as a big-time underdog, but they’re a strong underdog play.

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LendingTree Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: MAC vs. Independent
  • Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021
  • Venue: Hancock Whitney Stadium
  • Location: Mobile, Alabama
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 5:45 p.m. ET

Eastern Michigan Eagles Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 7-5
  • ATS: 5-7
  • O/U: 5-7

The Eagles covered just five times in 12 games this season. They failed to cover in the regular-season finale against Central Michigan, but the good news is that they haven’t failed to cover in consecutive games since opening the season 0-3 ATS from Sept. 3-18.

Eastern Michigan is making its first bowl appearance since the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl, a 34-30 loss against Pittsburgh. Prior to that, it was heartbreak in the Camellia Bowl in 2018, falling 23-21 to Georgia Southern. Before that, a trip to the 2016 Bahamas Bowl ended in a 24-20 loss to Old Dominion. That’s three games, and three one-score losses. Oh so close, but no cigar. Prior to the Bahamas Bowl, the Eagles hadn’t been to a postseason game since the 1987 California Bowl, its only win in a postseason game. They topped San Jose State 30-27 in that one, making them 1-4 in five bowl games.

The Eagles are 15-6 ATS in the past 21 games against non-conference teams, while going 28-13 ATS in the past 41 games as an underdog. They’re also a perfect 5-0 ATS in five games in December, while cashing in six of the past seven on a natural grass surface.

Liberty Flames Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 7-5
  • ATS: 6-6
  • O/U: 4-7-1

The Flames were dumped 31-16 against Army in the regular-season finale, as they failed to build momentum heading into the bowl. They’re 0-3 SU/ATS, and the offense has scored 16, 14 and 14 during the three-game run, hitting the UNDER in two of the past three outings.

This offense has the potential to put up big points. The Flames were good for 28 or more points in five consecutive outings from Oct. 2-30, including a 2-0-1 OVER run at ULM, North Texas and against UMass at home.

Head coach Huge Freeze has led the Flames to a bowl game in three consecutive seasons. The Flames won their first-ever bowl game in 2019, topping Georgia Southern in the Cure Bowl by a 23-16 count. In 2020, the Flames ran it back and topped Coastal Carolina 37-34 in overtime, capping a 10-win season with a win over the ranked Chanticleers, finishing 17th in The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll.

Liberty has covered in four straight appearances in the month of December, but they’re just 1-5 ATS in the past six games overall, and 1-4 ATS in the past five against teams with a winning record. They’re also 0-4 ATS in the past four non-conference games, and 1-4 ATS in the past five as a favorite.

Eastern Michigan has covered 28 of the past 41 games as an underdog. (AP)

Inside the Stats - Eastern Michigan Eagles

  • Record: 7-5
  • VI Ranking: 99
  • Points Scored: 372
  • Points Allowed: 334
  • PS/G: 31.0
  • PA/G: 27.8

Inside the Stats - Liberty Flames

  • Record: 7-5
  • VI Ranking: 71
  • Points Scored: 381
  • Points Allowed: 260
  • PS/G: 31.8
  • PA/G: 21.7

Key Players to Watch

  • EMU: Hassan Beydoun – WR (86 catches, 932 yards, 4 TD)
  • EMU: Ben Bryant - QB (256/372, 2,921 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT)
  • LIB: Demario Douglas - WR (49 catches, 684 yards, 5 TD)
  • LIB: Malik Willis - QB (194/315, 3,446 total yards, 35 total TDs, 12 INT)

LendingTree Bowl Betting Conclusion

Liberty heads into this game with zero momentum after dropping the final three games of the regular season, but the extra practice time will serve the Flames well as they look to get back on track. QB Malik Willis is a favorite of NFL scouts, and he’ll likely have his name called on Day 2 or Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. The good news is that there are no reports of Willis considering skipping the game to get ready for the draft, something we’ve seen from a lot of star players recently.

The Eagles have a pretty good quarterback in Ben Bryant. He’s not a dual-threat like Willis, but he has completed an impressive 68.8 percent of his passes, while leading the offense to 31.0 PPG, which ranks 46th in the country. The pass attack has rolled up 263.6 passing yards per outing, so that’s what EMU will be trying to do.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the defense has struggled, and they’re allowing 196.9 rushing yards per game. That has to have Willis licking his chops for this collegiate grand finale. The offense has also allowed 27.8 PPG, so Willis and the Flames should be able to finish the season on a high note, and keep their all-time FBS bowl record unblemished.

Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty Flames Betting Trends

  • Eastern Michigan is 15-6 ATS in the past 21 non-conference games.
  • Eastern Michigan is 5-0 ATS in the past five games in December.
  • Eastern Michigan is 28-13 ATS in the past 41 games as an underdog.
  • Liberty is 4-0 ATS in the past four games in December.
  • Liberty is 1-5 ATS in the past six games overall.
  • Liberty is 0-4 ATS in the past four non-conference games.
  • The OVER is 5-2-1 in Eastern Michigan’s past eight non-conference games.
  • The OVER is 3-1-1 in Liberty’s past five games as a favorite.