Many believe the real bowl season doesn’t begin until after Christmas Day. If you subscribe to that theory, the Independence Bowl will kick off this year’s bowl season on Dec. 26.
North Carolina and Missouri both finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. The Tar Heels dropped four of their last six games, while the Tigers won their last three contests.
This may not be a marquee bowl, but I believe it has the potential to be a quality game.
North Carolina has been in the news quite a bit lately because of the hiring of Larry Fedora. Fedora has done a great job with the Southern Miss football program, and he will take over the UNC program right after this bowl game.
Interim coach Everitt Withers will still be the team’s head coach for the Independence Bowl. How will the players respond to the fact that Fedora is coming on board and Withers may no longer be with the team? Changing coaches right before a bowl game always creates more question marks about how well prepared the team will be.
After the team’s disappointing loss to Baylor in early November, the Missouri Tigers could have folded up the tent for the year. Instead, the team bounced back and put together three solid victories to finish off the regular season.
The last few games of the season didn’t come without some unnecessary drama for the Missouri football team, however.
Coach Gary Pinkel was arrested in mid-November for driving under the influence. He pled guilty, and the school suspended him from coaching the team’s final regular season game. Pinkel is back coaching the team, and Tigers fans hope all of the negativity from that arrest is now in the past.
Bryn Renner had a successful first year as the starting quarterback for North Carolina. Renner did throw 12 interceptions, but his completion percentage of 69 percent was among the best in the nation.
As he develops over the next couple of years, Renner has the potential to turn into one of the best quarterbacks in football because of his raw ability.
Giovani Bernard ran for 1,222 yards as a freshman this year. Bernard also caught 39 passes and his versatility really helps this offense. Dwight Jones led the team with 79 catches and 11 touchdowns this season.
The Tar Heels defense was tremendous against the run this year, but they struggled against the pass.
James Franklin excelled in his role as a dual-threat quarterback at the helm of the Missouri offense. Franklin threw for 20 touchdowns and ran for 13 more. Franklin’s running ability really makes it tough on the defense, because the Tigers always have two good runners in the backfield at all times.
Henry Josey had a massive breakout season this year.
Josey averaged an amazing 8.1 yards per carry, and he finished the regular season with nine rushing touchdowns. Missouri enters this game ranked 11th in the nation in rushing offense.
T.J. Moe’s numbers are down quite a bit from last year, but he is still the Tigers' most dangerous receiver on the outside. The Tigers defense has allowed a lot of yards this year, but they generally do a good job limiting opponents to field goals.
Independence Bowl Odds: North Carolina vs. Missouri
Missouri opened as a 3.5-point favorite in this one, according to the NCAA Football odds. However, the money has poured in on the Tigers. The line now sits at Missouri minus-5 at most books. The posted total opened at 52 points and it has edged up to 52.5 points.
Independence Bowl: North Carolina vs. Missouri Betting Trends
Missouri is 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games as a favorite.
North Carolina is 19-9 in their last 28 games as an underdog.
Both teams went 6-6 ATS during the regular season this year.
The "under" is 9-3 in Missouri’s last 12 nonconference games.
2011 Independence Bowl Predictions: North Carolina vs. Missouri Betting Picks
Neither of these teams is great this year, but both of them are solid. Both fan bases generally travel well, so I don’t see a big home-field advantage for either team here.
I expect the turnover margin to be extremely important in this one. Both defenses seem to have improved quite a bit at the end of the year. I think the best play in this one is the "under."
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.