Independence Bowl Preview: Missouri Vs. North Carolina

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Advocare V100 Independence Bowl

Missouri Vs. North Carolina

5:00 P.M. (EST), December 26, 2011

TheSpread.com Point Spread: Missouri -6

While many Tiger fans have moved on from the football season and are focusing solely on the basketball team and their undefeated record, the Mizzou football squad still has one game to play. With a win over North Carolina in Shreveport this afternoon on a national stage, the Tigers will gain some much-needed confidence before beginning play next year in the SEC.

North Carolina: When Butch Davis was fired just before the season began, many college football fans figured that the team would struggle mightily under an unstable coaching staff. However, the Tar Heels showed that they are a talented bunch, and fared well early on as they started 5-1, with a seven point loss at then 25th ranked Georgia Tech being their only blemish. But while the Tar Heels beat the teams they were favored against, they failed to pick up a signature win against superior teams like Clemson and Virginia Tech.

Offensively, North Carolina is led by sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner, who has thrown for 2,769 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. He has generally been consistent and safe under center, yet doesn’t have much mobility and has a limited number of options. One of those options is running back Giovani Bernard, a true freshman who has held up well despite facing the tough defenses of the ACC. Bernard has rushed for 1,222 yards and 13 scores, and has been a reliable checkdown option for Renner, who has thrown to his freshman running back 39 times for 326 yards and a touchdown. In addition, senior wide receiver Dwight Jones has been Renner’s favorite downfield target, as he has hauled in 79 passes for 1,119 yards and 11 scores on the season.

With current interim coach Everett Withers leaving North Carolina immediately after the game to join Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State as the defensive coordinator of the Buckeyes, it is nearly impossible to predict how the players will perform. But with how the Tar Heels have stayed together and gotten themselves bowl eligible after being written off in the preseason, expect the Tigers to have a tougher contest than expected.

Missouri: Tiger fans don’t need to be reminded about the their team’s year-long inconsistency. Without a doubt, however, quarterback James Franklin will be extremely motivated to get the sour taste of a terrible performance against Kansas out of his mouth and deliver a steady performance. The conditions in Shreveport will probably be much better than at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, where a sloppy field and blustery winds virtually eliminated the passing attack from both teams.

If Mizzou can establish Kendial Lawrence early and keep the Tar Heels guessing with Franklin’s dual-threat ability, they will most certainly run away with the contest. Of course, that has seemed like the obvious formula for many of the Tigers’ games, yet they have abandoned the run too early and have relied on Franklin passing the ball too often.

Prediction: The Tigers will start out slow and struggle to find an offensive rhythm in the first half against the Tar Heel defense. But after making some key halftime adjustments and exploiting North Carolina’s defensive weaknesses, Mizzou will pull away and win by at least a touchdown.