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Independence Bowl preview

Another game in the NCAA Bowl series previewed by James Jack, @materialista27. Read more of his work on his dedicated College Bowl site.

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AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

Friday December 28th, 13:00 CST (19:00 GMT)
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks vs. Ohio Bobcats


The Independence Bowl has been played annually at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Independence Bowl got its name because it was inaugurated in the United States bicentennial year, 1976. It was announced that in 2012, the Mountain West Conference team would be replaced by the tenth selection from the Southeastern Conference, however even the SEC couldn't muster that many bowl-eligible teams, and so we have two at-large teams, from the Sun Belt conference and the MAC. Last year's game was a bit funny, as we had an ACC team going against a then-Big12 team that was on its way to the SEC.

The Warhawks finished 8-4 and were just a game behind Arkansas State in the Sun Belt. All of that comes despite losing an overtime game to Auburn. Junior QB Kolton Browning has paced the offense, throwing for 2830 yards and 23 TDs despite missing almost two games due to injury. That may be significant as he left the defeat to the Ragin Cajuns and sat out the defeat by Arkansas State. He led the Warhawks rushing yardage too, racking up 441 yards but more importantly 7 TDs making him a legitimate red zone threat. Brent Leonard has become Browning's favorite target, reaching the 1000 yard plateau in style with 10 TDs but crucially 97 catches, good for 7th in the country. The offense has been good, averaging 35.5 points per game, which is especially handy as the Bobcats have given up 52 points to Ball State and 28 points to Kent State. If they can continue to produce that level of offense, Ohio will be in trouble.

Ohio opened the season with seven straight wins, and became nationally ranked for the first time since the moon was unexplored. Unfortunately, that was as good as they got. The Bobcats dropped four of their last five, those four losses coming by a combined margin of 60 points. Some athletic staff inside the school have even gone as far as saying they can't wait for the season to end. The Bobcats will try to close 2012 with a victory behind junior running back Beau Blankenship, He ran for an even 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns he ranks 10th in the country in yards gained and 9th in yards per game. He also has 177 receiving yards, so the screen pass may be a useful early option. Junior Tyler Tettleton directs the passing attack, having completed for 2,513 yards, 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Tettleton will have to continue to make smart decisions against Louisiana-Monroe, who have 15 interceptions on the year. Ohio has scored 15.7 points per game during its skid after averaging 35.6 in its first nine contests.

FOR LOUISIANA-MONROE TO WIN
Go to the air early, especially against a defense that gives up nearly 230 yards per game. The Bobcats have struggled down the stretch, and if the Warhawks can get out to a two touchdown lead, Bobcat heads may drop. ULM can then turn to their running game and chew up the clock. Kolton Browning should have this game in his pocket and I wouldn't be surprised in he's responsible for 4 or more touchdowns.

FOR OHIO TO WIN
Keep believing, they played well in the first half of the season, and there is plenty of offense in this team. Beau Blankenship is the key to any Ohio win, his ability to hold onto the ball and make the tough yards will be crucial, if he can't get the chains moving, this could be a disaster. Tettleton has the ability to find his receivers in tight spots, but key to that is establishing play-action and manoeuvring the ULM defense around the field.

VERDICT
Ohio's collapse in the second half of the season is key, especially as 14 of their 22 starters from the opening day win at Penn State are missing from this game. Louisiana-Monroe have rolled into this game and their high-powered offense should be too much for this beat-up Bobcats squad.

ADVICE
ULM -7
Under 60.5 points

DRINKING GAME
1 drink: Any subtle or otherwise references to vampires.
2 drinks: Any camera cut away to an injured Ohio player in stand.
Finish it: Any mention of the moon landings.

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