NCF Nation: 2012 independence bowl

Instant analysis: Missouri 41, UNC 24

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
8:33
PM ET

A mid-level bowl game on a rainy day in a location few consider a vacation spot led to a small crowd. But Missouri looked like it wanted to be in Shreveport, La., on Monday afternoon, dominating this game, and earning a solid win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl over North Carolina, 41-24.

How the game was won: Missouri was the aggressor from the start, pounding North Carolina with a relentless running game and hitting simple throws when necessary. The Tigers scored on all five of their first-half drives and raced to a 31-10 halftime lead. Missouri forced a pair of first-half turnovers after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive. The rout was on early.

Turning point: North Carolina turned the ball over on consecutive snaps and when it looked up, Missouri led, 31-7. Giovani Bernard fumbled near midfield and Missouri marched 40 yards for a touchdown. Bryn Renner threw a perfect pass to Dwight Jones, but a hit jostled loose the ball, which ended up rolling off Jones' back and into Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden's hands. Missouri used seven plays to go 59 yards for a score and a 31-7 lead.

Stat of the game: Missouri's running game really couldn't be stopped in the first half. The Tigers outrushed North Carolina, 192-13. Bernard, an All-ACC first-teamer, had just 12 yards on eight carries in the half. The Tigers finished with 337 rushing yards -- just the third time this season the Tigers topped 300 yards on the ground. They did it against UNC, who entered Monday's game with the nation's No. 14 rush defense, allowing just more than 106 yards rushing per game this season.

Player of the game: Franklin. Missouri's sophomore quarterback was at his best, utilizing his underrated arm and great legs, and helping the Tigers keep solid balance. He finished with 142 yards rushing and 132 yards passing, accounting for three touchdowns.

Worst omen: Truman the Tiger. Mizzou's mascot shattered the crystal Independence Bowl trophy just hours before the game, but bowl officials told media at the game they hustled to find a replacement trophy from a "local jeweler." Missouri isn't expected to be forced to foot the bill for the trophy, which cost a "couple thousand bucks, at least," but the omen didn't seem to bother the Tigers in the bowl win.

Stat of the game II: Truman the Tiger fumbles: 1. Missouri Tiger fumbles: 0.

Unsung hero of the game: Missouri's offensive line. North Carolina's defense is littered with NFL talent, highlighted by defensive end Quinton Coples. The Tigers O-line blew them off the ball from the start, clearing huge holes and giving Franklin tons of time to throw.

Best call: Missouri gave up a 22-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, but came back with a trick play you know it was itching to unleash. Facing a second-and-4 on the UNC 40, Franklin flicked a pass to his right, back to former high school quarterback and the team's leading receiver, T.J. Moe. He flung it downfield to a wide-open Wes Kemp for a 40-yard, game-tying touchdown. The trickery worked to perfection, and the execution was perfect, too.

What it means: Missouri will head to the SEC with some good momentum off a pretty average season. The day in Shreveport finished with an S-E-C chant from the Tigers fans who made the trip. The Tigers will face a huge challenge in a new conference next year, while North Carolina begins a brand-new era in the ACC. Interim coach Everett Withers is headed to Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator, and former Southern Miss coach (and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator) Larry Fedora will now take over in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have constantly underachieved under Butch Davis with lots of NFL talent, and Fedora will try to change that.

Record performance: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner broke Chris Keldorf's school record, set in 1996, for touchdown passes with his 24th of the season on the opening drive. That ball was caught by Dwight Jones, his 12th of the season, which tied Hakeem Nicks' school record set back in 2008.

Record performance II: Missouri's 31 first-half points were a Mizzou bowl record, and also an Independence Bowl record. The Tigers made it look easy.

Predictions: ACC bowls

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
11:00
AM ET
I finished the regular season with a picks percentage of 74.2, but I missed the one that mattered most and failed to pick the upset in the ACC championship game. That’s why they call it an upset. My grand total for the season stands at 72-26 heading into bowl season. Plenty of room for improvement, but there are a lot of tough calls and games that can go either way this bowl season. Here are your picks for the non-BCS bowls:

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl -- Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in interim coach Everett Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.

Belk Bowl -- NC State 28, Louisville 21: Both quarterbacks will need to get better protection than they have for most of the season, and both teams have seen their defenses improve, but NC State has done a tremendous job this year of forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes, and Teddy Bridgewater will find that out quickly. The difference will be NC State’s front seven on defense.

Champs Sports Bowl -- Florida State 21, Notre Dame 17: This is significantly below the 30 points both teams are averaging this year, but Florida State’s defense will again be the difference. Even if the Noles can’t get things going again offensively, Florida State’s defense and special teams are good enough to offset it against the Irish. Notre Dame is No. 116 in the country in turnover margin, and Florida State is capable not only of forcing quarterback Tommy Rees into a turnover, but also of scoring on it.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl -- Wake Forest 24, Mississippi State 21. The Demon Deacons have too many difference-makers on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs to overcome. It’s been a record-setting year for Price and receiver Chris Givens, and freshman cornerback Merrill Noel leads the nation with 20 passes defended. The difference will be Wake Forest’s passing game and its ability to protect the ball.

Hyundai Sun Bowl -- Georgia Tech 28, Utah 24. The Utes couldn’t handle a floundering Colorado team that had just one league win in the regular-season finale, and this will be a much more difficult challenge. Those within Georgia Tech’s program are tired of hearing about the six-game losing streak, and coach Paul Johnson is at his best when he’s got something to prove. Georgia Tech will catch Utah off-guard with several big plays, control the clock and in turn the game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Virginia 24, Auburn 21: The Tigers lost both coordinators in a span of a week, and leading rusher Michael Dyer has been suspended for the bowl game for a violation of team rules. Without those three components, Virginia has an edge. Plus, Auburn is a shadow of its 2010 national championship team, while Virginia has made a dramatic turnaround this year. Statistically, Auburn has one of the worst offenses in the country, and the defense has been at the bottom of the SEC.

Independence Bowl keys

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
10:30
AM ET
Here are three keys for North Carolina (7-5) heading into its matchup against Missouri:

1. Attitude. As simple as it sounds, if the Tar Heels aren’t emotionally and mentally into this game, they won’t be in it on the scoreboard, either. North Carolina has already announced Larry Fedora as its new head coach, and interim coach Everett Withers has already accepted a job as an assistant with Ohio State. Can Withers get his team to remain focused, even as he has one foot out the door?

2. Win the turnover margin. In North Carolina’s seven wins, the Tar Heels have a plus-7 turnover margin, compared with a minus-8 turnover deficit in the five losses. Overall, Carolina ranks 65th in the country with a minus-0.08 turnover margin. Missouri has lost 18 turnovers this season, compared with UNC’s 22.

3. Contain quarterback James Franklin. He's a first-year starter and a true sophomore, but he has caused headaches for opposing defenses despite an inconsistent start. Franklin enters the bowl game ranked 15th in the NCAA in total offense, averaging 298.25 yards per game. He’s thrown for 200 yards or more six times this season, and he’s also a big threat on the ground, as he has 839 yards and a team-best 13 rushing touchdowns. UNC has allowed just nine rushing touchdowns all season, but the Tar Heels’ pass defense is No. 90 in the country.

Independence Bowl: Three keys for Mizzou

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
10:30
AM ET
Time to look at three keys for Mizzou in its matchup with North Carolina in the V100 AdvoCare Independence Bowl.

1. Maintain offensive balance. Missouri's been remarkably balanced all season long. The Tigers have 2,835 yards rushing and 2,834 yards passing. That's how it has to be for them. James Franklin isn't a passer precise enough to park in the pocket and fire 50 passes a game. He has to keep the defense off balance and aware of his running ability. His importance skyrocketed after Henry Josey's injury, but he's capable of getting it done.

2. Limit big plays. The Tar Heels are right in the middle of the pack in the ACC when it comes to big plays, but outside of Texas, Missouri has been the Big 12's best team at limiting plays from scrimmage longer than 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards. That should continue, and if it does, Missouri should be fine. Neither team has a huge advantage in this one, but the Tigers should win if they play like their usual selves. Fact is, 7-5 and 5-4 in the Big 12 is a lot more impressive than North Carolina's marks of 7-5 and 3-5 in the ACC.

3. Try to shake Bryn Renner. Not literally, though that would be a good sign for Missouri's defensive line. Renner's thrown multiple interceptions in four games this season, and gone without a interception in six games. It's pretty clear which side of Renner Missouri would like to see. Missouri's defensive line hasn't quite lived up to lofty expectations, but this is an opportunity for top pass-rushers Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison to have a huge impact on the game.

Independence Bowl: UNC vs. Missouri

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
9:00
AM ET
North Carolina (7-5) will make its fourth straight bowl appearance and first in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl when it faces Missouri (7-5) in Shreveport, La. Here’s a quick preview of the game:

WHO TO WATCH: The 1,000-yard club. For the first time in school history, North Carolina has a 1,000-yard rusher (Giovani Bernard) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwight Jones) in the same season. UNC is also one of five FBS teams in the country with a rusher and receiver that have reached at least 1,100 yards. Missouri has played two of those five teams and lost to both Baylor and Oklahoma State. Bernard enters the game with 1,222 rushing yards and ranks first among all freshman runners in the country with 101.8 yards per game. He is the first 1,000- yard rusher at UNC since Jonathan Linton in 1997. Jones, only the second player in school history with 1,000 receiving yards, has 1,119 on a school-record 79 catches and 11 touchdowns, one shy of the single-season school record.

WHAT TO WATCH: UNC’s defense vs. dual-threat quarterback James Franklin. He is one of only three FBS players with 800 or more rushing yards and 2,000 or more passing yards in 2011. Missouri lost some of its offensive identity when running back Henry Josey suffered a serious knee injury. The Tigers go as Franklin goes, and UNC will have to contain him. Defensively, Carolina is 16th in the nation against the run and features a pair of first-team All-ACC selections in defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks. UNC’s passing defense, though, was statistically the worst in the ACC this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Farewell parties. This will be the final game for North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, who took over after former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer camp began. It will also be the final game for Missouri in the Big 12 before the Tigers join the SEC.

PREDICTION: Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:09
PM ET
Missouri Tigers (7-5) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5)

Dec. 26, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri is headed to the SEC next season, and went out quietly in Big 12 play. The Tigers roll with dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, but are still trying to find their offense after losing Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher at the time, to a serious knee injury. He started the season No. 3 on the depth chart. It's been up to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore to pick up the slack.

The Tigers' defense had high hopes coming into the season, and it's been good after some early-season struggles, but perhaps not as good as expected. The defensive line hasn't dominated as most expected, but the Tigers played well enough to win four of their final five games to rescue a rough start against a brutal schedule. Mizzou may have the best five losses of any team in the country: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Arizona State. Not a bad one in the bunch, and all four but Oklahoma State came on the road. Mizzou is better than its record suggests, and will get a chance to prove it in the postseason.


North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The entire season could have unraveled for UNC, considering former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer practices began, but interim coach Everett Withers kept the program on track for its fourth straight bowl appearance.

North Carolina has faced Missouri twice, losing both times, but has not played the Tigers since 1976. North Carolina started the season 5-1, but fizzled down the stretch against better competition. The Tar Heels lost four of their past six games, including a fifth-straight loss to rival NC State. Individually, though, it has been an impressive season for a few Tar Heels. Tailback Giovani Bernard rushed for a UNC freshman record 1,222 yards and became the first Tar Heel since 1997 to run for more than 1,000 yards.

Receiver Dwight Jones set a school record with 79 receptions and has 11 touchdown catches, which is just one shy of the single-season record. And quarterback Bryn Renner enters the bowl game tied for the school record with 23 touchdown passes. Defensively, Carolina is led by defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active college players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks.

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