Liberty vs. Georgia Southern: Cure Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Liberty (7-5) vs. Georgia Southern (7-5)

Location: Orlando | When: Dec. 21 (2:30 p.m.) | TV: CBSSN | Line: Georgia Southern -4.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Liberty: Liberty, in its first season as a full FBS member, needed a win over New Mexico State in its season finale to clinch bowl eligibility. Because the Flames tallied two wins over FCS teams, they had to reach the seven-win mark and did so by notching their second victory of the season over New Mexico State. Liberty won its other six games in a seven-game stretch, but those teams have just a combined 23-49 record. 

Georgia Southern: After a 1-3 start to the season that included a near-upset of Minnesota, the Eagles won four straight, including a double-overtime win over South Alabama, a triple-overtime win over Coastal Carolina and a massive upset over then-undefeated Appalachian State. That turned out to be the only loss of the year for App State, the eventual Sun Belt champions. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

This game will be a contrast of offensive styles featuring the pass-happy attack of Liberty led by head coach Hugh Freeze (formerly of Ole Miss, of course) and Georgia Southern’s option schemes. The Flames have the No. 21-ranked passing offense in the country, highlighted by the explosive connection between quarterback Stephen Calvert and receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden. Georgia Southern, meanwhile, has the eighth-best rushing attack in the country and features three players who have rushed for at least 675 yards. 

Hugh Freeze has Liberty in a bowl game in its first season as a full FBS member. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert, QB, Liberty: A four-year starter, Calvert put up big numbers yet again as a senior for Liberty. In 12 games, Calvert has thrown for 3,393 yards and 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He has six 300-yard games on the year and went for a career-high 474 yards in the win over UMass. 

Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern: Vildor, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, has been one of the top cornerbacks in the Sun Belt over the past few seasons. He earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors in each of the last two seasons. Overall in his four-year career, he has played in 47 games and totaled 93 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 30 pass breakups and eight interceptions.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Liberty WR Antonio Gandy-Golden: The 6-4, 220-pound receiver has put up monster numbers the past two seasons, catching a combined 145 passes for 2,370 yards (a 16.3-yard average) with 19 TDs over 23 combined games. After a slew of drops in 2018, Gandy-Golden cured that with only two on 129 targets this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He possesses some interesting physical traits, can go up and get the ball and is relatively dependable, but Gandy-Golden isn’t a special athlete by NFL standards. He could end up the highest-drafted Liberty player in decades. The last time the school produced a pick higher than No. 125 was Kelvin Edwards (88th pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1986).

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Liberty: Liberty was a consistent contender in the Big South and decided to transition to FBS over the last few years. The Flames went 6-6 in 2018, but were not yet eligible for bowl play. Now in 2019, Freeze can cap off his first season with the program by getting its first bowl win at the top level of college football. 

Georgia Southern: Georgia Southern has won both of the bowl games it has played in since transitioning to FBS in 2014. The Eagles, in their first year under Chad Lunsford, went 10-3 and won the Camellia Bowl a year ago. They won’t get back to double-digit wins, but they could notch yet another bowl win in Lunsford’s second year running the program full time. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Georgia Southern -4.5

Sam Cooper: Liberty +4.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Georgia Southern -5

Pete Thamel: Georgia Southern -5

Dan Wetzel: Liberty +5

Sean Sullivan: Georgia Southern -5

More from Yahoo Sports: