MONDAY HUDDLE: Liberty earns NY6 game to lead state teams who qualified for bowls

James Madison, Virginia Tech also going bowling

Liberty's Quinton Cooley runs by New Mexico's State Dylan Early, center, and Sone Aupiu, right, during the first half of the Conference USA championship NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Robert Simmons) (Robert Simmons, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Huddle up! Here’s a look back at this weekend on the gridiron, with three key takeaways from the state’s football scene -- and a glimpse at what’s to come next week.

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Liberty continues rise to national prominence with New Year’s Six bowl selection

In just six years as a Football Championship Subdivision program, Liberty has done something many programs established for decades haven’t achieved.

Liberty will play in a New Year’s Six bowl game — aka the most prominent bowl games besides the two College Football Playoff games — when it takes on Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.

Liberty earned the lone spot reserved for a program not from a Power 5 conference by virtue of its 13-0 record and Conference USA championship.

Even better, is that the Flames will have quite a moment in the national spotlight. The Liberty-Oregon game will be at 1 p.m. and will be the prelude to the College Football Playoff semifinals, so the entire nation will be watching.

Not too shabby for a program that started playing as an FCS one in 2017.

James Madison to make history with first bowl, but without head coach

It was an emotional week for James Madison, which first bid farewell to its head coach, Curt Cignetti, who took the open Indiana job.

Cignetti won’t coach James Madison in its first ever bowl game, but that still shouldn’t dampen the historic occasion when the Dukes play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 23.

Despite initially being ineligible for a bowl game because they were in the second and final year of a transition window between FBS and FCS, the Dukes (11-1) were chosen for the bowl game because there weren’t enough 6-6 teams that qualified.

Hokies return to postseason action

The third team from the state going bowling is Virginia Tech, which was chosen for the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. The Hokies will meet Tulane.

Following an 8-loss season last year, qualifying for a bowl and earning the extra practices that comes with it should be positive for the program.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.