BYU replaces Liberty against Coastal Carolina

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BYU replaces Liberty against Coastal Carolina

BYU will replace Liberty as Coastal Carolina’s opponent on Saturday after COVID-19 issues prevented the Flames from playing in the game.

The game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. ET and air on ESPNU.

Several Liberty players and staff members, including star quarterback Malik Willis, tested positive or were quarantined this week because of COVID-19. The Flames (9-1) had still hoped to play in the game, but school medical officials would not allow it and paused all team-related activities after Wednesday’s test results were returned Thursday morning.

BYU (9-0) and Coastal Carolina (9-0) are both ranked this week in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Cougars are No. 13, and the Chanticleers are No. 18.

BYU, which last played Nov. 21, had been looking for another opponent. The Cougars weren’t scheduled to play again until Dec. 12 against San Diego State.

“We’re grateful that this game between our two teams could be put together in such a timely fashion,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “It’s good to have a partner like ESPN that can help put together such a meaningful game at this point of the season.”

ESPN’s College GameDay is set to broadcast Saturday from the Coastal Carolina campus.

Coastal Carolina was Liberty’s last scheduled regular-season game. The Flames, competing as an independent, have had an historic season and still hope to play in a bowl game. Their 8-0 start was the best in school history under second-year coach Hugh Freeze, and they were also ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in school history. They’re No. 25 in AP Top 25 this week and own two wins over ACC opponents — Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Their only loss was a 15-14 setback to North Carolina State when a last-second field-goal attempt was blocked.

Coastal Carolina has already clinched a berth in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Dec. 19 and will face Louisiana. Coastal Carolina, led by second-year coach Jamey Chadwell, beat Louisiana 30-27 earlier this season on the road and is off to its best start in school history in only its fourth full season as an FBS member.

BYU, like Liberty, is one of the few independents remaining in college football. The Cougars have scored more than 40 points in eight of their nine games this season and have won their last five games by an average margin of 34.4 points. At one point, BYU was left with only three games on its schedule as conferences started to cancel their seasons during the summer or go to league games only due to the pandemic. BYU had to build a schedule from scratch, one that hasn’t included any Power 5 schools, but the Cougars’ original schedule was being touted as the strongest in the program’s storied history, a schedule that included three Pac-12 teams, two Big Ten teams and one SEC team.

BYU and Coastal Carolina are both hopeful that a win Saturday would help their chances to secure a New Year’s Six bowl berth.

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