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Expect Tulane, Maybe

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It's always tough to gauge the strength of the various I-AA teams that visit Carter-Finley because of the difficulties involved with translating their results against fellow I-AA schools. We know Liberty is good for a I-AA team (they're ranked in the 20-25 range in a couple of preseason polls), but how good is that in I-A terms, approximately? It's an important question since I always treat these schools with contempt because it makes me feel like a big man and I need an estimate on how much contempt the Flames will require.

Below I've compared them to the other I-AA schools we've played in the Tom O'Brien era. For Liberty I had to use last year's numbers, but for the rest, the numbers come from the year in which NC State played them.

W-L Yds/Play OppYds/Play Total Off Rk* Total Def Rk*
Liberty (2010) 8-3 6.4 5.1 2 17
WCU (2010) 2-9 4.6 6.0 101 110
Murray St (2009) 3-8 3.8 5.4 115 85
Gardner-Webb (2009) 6-5 5.4 5.1 29 62
William & Mary (2008) 7-4 6.1 4.7 25 37
Wofford (2007) 9-4 5.8 5.2 15 60

(*Ranking among I-AA teams)

It's been several years since the Wolfpack played a I-AA approximating Liberty's caliber; Bill & Mary is the closest comp, and that was also the only team on the list to keep its game against State within two scores (W&M lost by 10). Which is not to say, Mike Glennon willing, you should expect anything that close on September 3rd.

Looking at it from a more precise angle, Liberty is ranked 144th in Jeff Sagarin's preseason ratings, which combine the I-A and I-AA levels. That puts Liberty ahead of six I-A schools, including Akron; their closest I-A comp is Tulane. That seems about right to me.

None of these things measure heart or moxie or grittiness or scrappiness or how grindy they are, however. When you look at this team, it's a dangerous team with a lot of veterans on the offensive side. Mike Brown is a winner and a great leader in that locker room, a quietly loud leader by example. You have head football coach Dan Rocco who has done a solid job from day one with this program, and then there is offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter, who absolutely was a quarterback at Clemson. For ESPN, I'm Mark May.