Independence Bowl Pick – December 28th
Both Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio enter this game with an 8-4 record on the year. This is a matchup of two teams who aren’t exactly used to being in bowl games. Louisiana-Monroe will be playing in the first bowl game in program history. The Ohio Bobcats just picked up their first bowl win ever in program history last season. How do these teams match up in this one?
Lousiana-Monroe started their season with a 34-31 overtime win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. After close losses to both Auburn and Baylor, the Warhawks ran off five straight victories. The team lost a couple games near the end of the season when quarterback Kolton Browning went down with an injury, but they recovered to win their last two games. Browning did everything for Louisiana-Monroe this year. He was the team’s leading rusher as well as their leading passer. He threw for 27 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions. Best of all, Browning had his biggest games when the team needed him most. This junior dual-threat quarterback is an absolute star.
Louisiana-Monroe’s defense has been great against the run this year, but they struggled in a big way against the pass. Opponents threw for 272 yards per game against this unit. Isaiah Newsome leads the team with four interceptions. As a whole, the Warhawks secondary takes a lot of chances, and sometimes they get beat deep because of that. In their last two games, Louisiana-Monroe only allowed 16 and 17 points. This is a defense that improved as the season moved along.
Ohio started the season with a huge win at Happy Valley over Penn State. In fact, the Bobcats started the season with seven straight wins. At one point, it looked like Ohio could be a BCS buster like Northern Illinois ended up being. In the end, Ohio lost four of their last five games and finished 8-4. What went wrong for the team at the end of the year? This was one of the most beat up teams in all of college football. Injuries were a major problem, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Carl Jones, Neal Huynh, and Tremayne Scott were all three stars of the defensive line, but they have missed much of the season. The front seven was expected to be the strength of the defense, but because of their injury problems teams have gashed them on the ground of late.
On the offensive end, Ohio has a great dual-threat quarterback as well in Tyler Tettleton. Tettleton threw 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions this year. Beau Blankenship carried it 293 times for 1,500 yards this for the Bobcats. He is one of those runners that just gets stronger as the game goes. Donte Foster is the play maker on the outside for the Bobcats offense. Ohio has a nice balanced attack on offense, and they average 30.6 points per game.
Free Pick: Ohio +7
The Bobcats should have some guys back after more than a month off from their last game, and I think that will make a difference. Ohio is very good when healthy. Look for a close game here. I’ll take the points.
Louisiana-Monroe 31 Ohio 30