NCF Nation: Independence Bowl

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Ohio Bobcats (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4)

Dec. 28, 2 p.m. ET, Shreveport, La. (ESPN)

Ohio take by Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Ohio must feel a little envious seeing Northern Illinois go to a BCS game. For a while, it looked the Bobcats might become the first MAC team to break through that glass ceiling. They started out 7-0, including a season-opening win at Penn State, and reached as high as No. 23 in the coaches' poll. Alas, they lost four of their final five games to end any BCS dreams. The season wasn't a total loss, though, as Ohio secured its fourth straight bowl appearance and fifth since 2007 under head coach Frank Solich. This team has experience in the postseason after notching its first-ever bowl win last year. Veteran quarterback Tyler Tettleton and 1,500-yard back Beau Blankenship give the Bobcats a solid chance at another one.

Louisiana-Monroe take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Don’t tell Louisiana-Monroe there are too many bowls. The Warhawks, on the heels of their best season in 20 years, will be making their first-ever appearance in a bowl game when they take on Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. It’s a season that started with a bang when Louisiana-Monroe went to Little Rock and shocked No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime after clawing back from a 21-point deficit. The Warhawks nearly made it two in a row over the SEC, but lost 31-28 in overtime to Auburn the next week. Six days later, they played Baylor to a 47-42 loss. Junior quarterback Kolton Browning makes Louisiana-Monroe’s spread attack go and has had a terrific season. He’s passed for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and seven touchdowns. Much of the time, the Warhawks will go with an empty backfield and Browning will be in the shotgun by himself. They scored 30 or more points in eight of their 12 games this season, but also gave up 40 or more in their two Sun Belt Conference losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
Four players, including two projected starters, will not play in Monday’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl against Air Force because of various academic issues, the school announced on Thursday.

Senior defensive end Robert Hall and senior linebacker Anthony Barnes are ineligible under NCAA academic guidelines. Sophomore wide receiver Stephen Hill and senior safety Mario Edwards, both listed as starters on the latest depth chart, are both ineligible for not meeting Georgia Tech’s academic requirements.

Hill, though he never quite lived up to the preseason expectations, is still a significant loss. He leads the team in receptions (15) and touchdown receptions (3). He was also averaging 19.4 yards per catch. Edwards started all 12 games, has 36 tackles in the past five games and has 68 tackles and a forced fumble on the season. He's in his third season after transferring from Virginia Tech.

Hall's absence will hurt the depth at defensive end. He has eight tackles and three pass breakups this season. Barnes is a career backup who has played mostly on special teams.

Georgia Tech and Air Force meet Monday at 5 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.
Georgia Tech and Air Force run similar option offenses, and they enter the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl with the nation’s top two rushing offenses, respectively. They’re not mirror images, though. Air Forces uses a tight end, lines up in the I-formation on occasion, and has a few more “bells and whistles,” according to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, who defeated the Falcons five straight times when he was coaching at Navy.

In order to make it a sixth, who needs to step up?

Georgia Tech’s defensive line: The Jackets’ size advantage won’t be much help in this game because Air Force is quick and athletic up front. They don’t have to double team a lot because they can wrap the legs of bigger defenders. Georgia Tech is determined to get a hand on the offensive tackles to keep them from getting to the linebackers. Defensive end Izaan Cross told Sting Daily he expects to be left unblocked at times, and hopes to get numerous chances to make plays. Somebody is going to have to if they’re going to stop Air Force, which averages 317.92 rushing yards per game. The Jackets have struggled to stop the run and rank No. 78 in the country at 169.67 yards per game. Georgia Tech’s defense has struggled some to adjust to first-year coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme, but if the Jackets are going to snap their five-game bowl losing streak, it has to start up front.
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)

Dec. 28, 5 p.m., (ESPN2)

Texas A&M take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: One of the most intriguing and potentially entertaining games involving a Big 12 team will involve Texas A&M, whose offensive growth helped push them to their first bowl game under Mike Sherman.

The biggest reason was quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who threw for a school-record 3,217 yards and led the Big 12 with 28 touchdown passes against only six interceptions. The Aggies also have a lot of offensive weapons with emerging receivers Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu, Big 12 Freshman of the Year running back Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. They will be facing a Georgia defense that struggled so much that it’s already led to the firing of coordinator of Willie Martinez and two other defensive assistants. The Bulldogs rank 30th nationally in total defense but were lit up for 23 touchdown passes and ranked 119th nationally in turnover margin after recovering only two fumbles all season.

Georgia quarterback Joe Cox and wide receiver A.J. Green are one of the SEC’s most productive passing duos and will be a difficult test for an A&M defense that allowed at least 47 points in four games and ranked last in the Big 12 in every major pass-defense statistic.

But with both offenses being so proficient, the first team to 50 points might win this game.

Georgia take by SEC blogger Chris Low:Georgia’s 13th consecutive bowl trip probably seems a little hollow. This is not what anybody in Athens wanted or expected, as evidenced by Mark Richt’s firing of three of his defensive assistants last week.

The only defensive assistant remaining is tackles coach Rodney Garner. Richt said about 99 percent of his time will be spent on the defensive end of the field this month in practice, as none of the fired assistants chose to hang around for the bowl game. For the second straight year, the Bulldogs struggled to stop anybody. They’ve given up 37 or more points nine times in the past two seasons, which is the reason Willie Martinez, John Jancek and Jon Fabris weren’t retained.

Despite the disappointment this season, Georgia at least goes into its bowl matchup with Texas A&M with a little momentum. The Bulldogs knocked off then No. 7 Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale thanks to their best all-around performance of the season.

Georgia beat itself more times than not this season. The Bulldogs were last in the SEC with 99 penalties, which was also a problem in 2008, and they’re 119th out of 120 teams nationally in turnover margin.

Freshman running back Washaun Ealey was a bright spot during the latter part of the season, and star receiver A.J. Green should also be back for the bowl game after missing the last two games with an injured shoulder.
Posted by’s Graham Watson

One Mountain West team could be heading to Shreveport, La., for its postseason opportunity beginning in 2010.

According to the Shreveport Times, AdvoCare president and CEO Richard Wright, who’s company is the new title sponsor for the Independence Bowl, told the Shreveport Rotary Club this week that the 2010 Independence bowl would match a team from the ACC against a team from the Mountain West Conference.

The Mountain West Conference declined to comment on the agreement stating that it will yield to the bowl in terms of making the initial announcement.

The Independence Bowl previously had a contract with the Big 12 and SEC, but both of those contracts will expire after this season. The 2009 game is scheduled to be the seventh selection from the Big 12 teams and the eighth selection from the SEC.