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Monday, December 26, 2011
Independence Bowl: Missouri vs. UNC

By David Ubben

The Big 12 bowl slate kicks off with what's technically not a Big 12 bowl. Mizzou landed in the V100 AdvoCare Independence Bowl after the league had more bowl-eligible teams than bowl tie-ins, and will be heading to the SEC next season.

Before that happens, we'll preview its finale as a member of the Big 12.

WHO TO WATCH: James Franklin, QB, Missouri. Franklin's the center of everything Missouri does offensively, especially since Henry Josey went down with a knee injury. When Franklin finds some running room, it opens up the passing game. And when he hits on a few passes down the field, it opens things up for his leg. He can do either to set up the other, and Missouri's offense goes as he goes. A big day for one means a big day for the other. A bad day for one means a bad day for the other.

WHAT TO WATCH: Missouri's defense vs. North Carolina's skill positions. The Tigers are strong up front, but have struggled in the secondary at times. The Tar Heels boast a 1,200-yard rusher in Giovani Bernard and an 1,100-yard receiver in Dwight Jones. Quarterback Bryn Renner has a lot around him, and Missouri's defense has to play well to win this one.

WHY TO WATCH: Missouri's had a few classics in bowl games under Gary Pinkel, and this is a good matchup that could be another. The Tigers erased a 21-0 deficit to beat South Carolina in this game back in 2005. The next year, Mizzou lost the Sun Bowl when Oregon State converted a two-point conversion with 23 seconds left. In 2008, the Tigers beat Northwestern in overtime in the Alamo Bowl. Last year, a late Blaine Gabbert interception was returned for a touchdown and the final dramatic drive came up short in a close loss to Iowa in the Insight Bowl. Stay tuned this year.

PREDICTION: Missouri 34, North Carolina 28: The Tigers match up pretty well with UNC, and take care of business with a solid performance from Franklin, who tops 125 yards rushing and throws for 225, accounting for four touchdowns. The Tigers head to the SEC on the right note.