LU preps for Razorbacks after No. 23 ranking

After a historic victory over the BYU Cougars, the Flames now find themselves ranked for the second time in program history. 

Liberty leaped to No. 23 in both the Coaches Poll and AP Poll Oct. 30, coming in just behind Syracuse and one spot ahead of the University of Kentucky. The last time the Flames were ranked was in 2020 when they finished the season at No. 17. 

“At Ole Miss, we were ranked a lot,” Head Coach Hugh Freeze said. “Here, not so much. But when you (get ranked), it’s pretty special. You celebrate that, but you also better be real and know that Arkansas is going to be favored this week … You can easily get knocked out of the top 25. The one that’s quite gratifying is if you can finish the course of the 12-game season and put yourself in a position to be in (the top 25).”

A top-25 ranking was not the only news to generate for the football program amid its bye week, as the program announced a contract extension for Freeze Oct. 28. The eight-year deal will keep Freeze on the Mountain through 2030, earning an annual salary of about $5 million, according to ESPN. 

“(Ian McCaw) has been incredible to me, along with Dr. Prevo and the board of trustees,” Freeze said. “Every single year I’ve been here, I’ve never had to go to him to ask for anything … It’s quite humbling, truthfully. You feel kind of guilty that you’re the beneficiary of so many people’s work, that you know you couldn’t really do it without. From the players, to the staff, to everybody. I’m thankful to Ian for this opportunity and for their vision for the future.”

In order to hold their position in the top 25, however, the Flames will need to extinguish the SEC Arkansas Razorbacks, who have recently found themselves unranked with a 5-3 record. 

This will be the first time Liberty and Arkansas have ever faced off, and just the third time the Flames have faced an SEC team. The Razorbacks battled a similar opponent as the Flames in BYU Oct. 15 and garnered a similar result, defeating the Cougars 52-35. 

The last time Liberty entered an SEC environment was last season’s matchup with Ole Miss, where the Flames fell to the Rebels 27-14.

“I try to explain to (the players) what I think of the given stadiums that we’re going into,” Freeze said. “I don’t like our kids ever being surprised or shocked. I told them last year what the Ole Miss environment would be like … I have a good feel for what I think Arkansas will be like, also. We’ll have to handle it.”

The Flames will head off to Fayetteville to clash with the Razorbacks Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. 

Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter

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