It all comes down to this.
It may not be the Granddaddy of Them All, but the 2024 Fiesta Bowl features two teams, No. 8 Oregon Ducks and No. 23 Liberty Flames, that each showed out for fans this entire college football season.
That’s more than most across the country can claim, especially with the Ducks finishing No. 1 in both total yards and total points and the Flames owning the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in those categories, respectively.
Ahead of the 2024 Fiesta Bowl, Oregon Sports News has you covered with full odds, key breakdowns, and a prediction for the New Year’s Day faceoff.
*Will Dan Lanning’s Ducks go out on a high note this season? Hit the Oregon Sports News comments to share your final prediction.
2024 Fiesta Bowl: Game Details, Full Odds
No. 23 Liberty Flames: 13-0 (8-0, Conference USA)
No. 8 Oregon Ducks: 10-2 (8-1, Pac-12)
- Date: Monday, Jan. 1, 2024
- Time: 10:00 a.m. PT
- TV Network: ESPN
- Venue: State Farm Stadium — Glendale, Arizona
- Capacity: 63,400
- Weather: TBD
Odds: Oregon -17.5
‘One More Game’: The Bo-Bucky Backfield
If there was any doubt surrounding Bo Nix’s status, the 2023 Heisman finalist erased the question mark with a simple exclamation on Instagram:
Bo and Bucky Irving are back for their grand finale. That’s big for the Ducks. Because even after head coach Dan Lanning previously declared Bo would play, we hadn’t learned of the Fiesta Bowl bid against Liberty—a matchup some viewed as disappointing and a reason Nix could ultimately pass the torch a game early.
While it’s tough to say how the line would have shifted if Nix had sat ahead of the draft, we know backup Ty Thompson is off to the transfer portal following Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s move to Eugene (not to mention QB Dante Moore’s subsequent transfer to Oregon from UCLA).
Being down your top two field generals is an unfamiliar, uncomfortable look for any team of any talent level. But with that not a concern, the Ducks avoid an identity crisis and get to showcase a fiercely motivated QB-tailback tandem set to make a statement one last time.
2024 Fiesta Bowl: Key Matchup
At the risk of sounding obvious, this could come down to Oregon’s collective defense vs. Liberty quarterback Kaidon Salter.
If you don’t know anything about Liberty, know that Salter was the spark that set the Flames’ fire all year.
Through the air, Salter tallied 31 touchdowns (No. 5 in the nation) to just five interceptions. Not impressed? The 6’1” dual-threat sophomore also rushed for over 1,000 yards, scored 12 times on the ground, and quarterbacked this group to the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation.
Liberty’s star proved all year he can challenge defenses in myriad ways, and that’s what the Ducks are in store for on Jan. 1—a challenge.
From the defensive line to the secondary, Oregon is facing a slick, Swiss Army Knife of a quarterback who strikes when you lower your guard. Outright stopping him doesn’t feel attainable after what we watched him do all year. But containing him should suffice in this case, with the Ducks’ own offense ready to strike.
Simply put, with respect to Liberty’s defense, the Flames have little chance of stopping either Oregon’s rushing or passing game. Not with the Bo-and-Bucky Show ready to go—not after the Ducks averaged a blistering 44.2 points per game in 2023.
Expect some serious points from the Ducks in the dynamic duo’s denouncement. Meaning, again, Liberty will need a damn near perfect showing from its leader to keep things close.
2024 Fiesta Bowl: Biggest X-Factor
If the Ducks find themselves in a sprint to the finish, it’s likely because they’ve shot themselves in the foot with penalties.
On the year, Oregon ranked 119th out of 130 with 91 total penalties. That came out to 7.0 per game (No. 108 in the nation), and it resulted in 828 total yards lost—the 10th-worst mark in the entire country.
Playing a clean game has to be a focus for the Ducks. Quite frankly, it needs to be a priority for both teams, with Liberty also spending much of the year heavily penalized at 6.31 penalties per contest, No. 83 in the nation.
All this said, there are two other teams tied with the Flames at No. 83 in penalties per game: No. 3 Texas and No. 5 Florida State.
That’s right. That’s the same No. 3 Texas getting ready to play No. 2 Washington and the same No. 5 Florida State many, many believe at 13-0 should be in the College Football Playoffs.
Clearly, penalties alone don’t equate to lost games. They do, however, mean you have less margin for error—a handicap the Flames will have before we even hit the coin flip.
2024 Fiesta Bowl: Betting Trends
- Flames haven’t hit the Team Total Over in last 2 contests
- Ducks haven’t hit the Team Total Over in last 2 contests
- Ducks have won ATS in 8 of 12 contests
- Flames went 9-3 ATS this season
- Ducks are 5-1 ATS as 17.5-point favorites or better
2024 Fiesta Bowl: Final Prediction
ESPN.com’s Matchup Predictor favors the Ducks 90 percent to Liberty’s 10 percent.
And quite frankly, while anything can happen in a bowl game, it’s easy to see why this one looks so lopsided.
At this point, we know the game plan for each team. Salter must protect the rock for Liberty. He needs to find touchdowns, not field-goals, and it’s crucial he maintains long drives alongside starting tailback, Quinton Cooley, to keep the Bo-Bucky Backfield on the sidelines.
For the Ducks, the goal is to disrupt that exact attack with a defense that finished 25th in sacks and was just outside the top 10 against the run—exactly where the Flames want to lean.
What does this all mean? It means the key showdown features a star quarterback taking snaps against a thoroughly star-tested defense. Furthermore, it means the Ducks hold the advantage in most calculable matchups, including the one Liberty needs to win most.
What it’s all really saying is that favoring the Ducks is a given, and even the monumental 17.5-point spread makes sense, considering their impressive 5-1 record ATS when favored by as many or more points this season.
Come Jan. 1, expect both Oregon’s offense and its defense to get into an early groove, and don’t expect them to let off the gas until things are well decided.
Sorry, Liberty—Ducks go Full Lanning in this one.
The 2024 Fiesta Bowl won’t even be close.
Final Score: Oregon 45 – Liberty 17