What: AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
When: Monday, December 26th, 5:00 PM
Records: UNC 7-5; Missouri 7-5
The official end of the Butch Davis era.
The question facing UNC heading into this game is not so much how the Heels match-up with Missouri but one of focus and preparation. It is a legitimate concern when you consider all that has gone on in the past month. UNC has named a new head coach effectively ending the tenure of the current staff. The whirlwind surrounding that the fact the current staff have had an eye on where they will land next is bound to raise a question or two on just how focused the preparation has been for this bowl game. Not to mention the game is in Shreveport, LA which is hardly a destination you dream of playing at when the season begins.
On the flip side, you have the players who know they are returning next year undoubtedly thinking about playing for Larry Fedora next season. Fedora, who led Southern Miss to a 24-17 win over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve will likely be watching this game just to see what kind of hand he's been dealt. Players like Dwight Jones and Quinton Coples are thinking about the NFL Draft and turning in a solid performance in this game. There is plenty of motivation to go around in sending the seniors and the coaches off in a blaze of victorious glory.
Such is the pitfall of bowl games. Due to the long layoff and circumstances surrounding the game, you never know which team will show up. This goes for Missouri too, except the Tigers are not dealing with the same issues of staff and program upheaval. In UNC's case, you hope a motivated, well prepared team comes out and takes care of business.
Regarding the actual match-up of these two teams on football terms, it strikes me as a fairly even one. Missouri has a strong run game which can be countered by UNC's front seven. Missouri's defense is average at best which should give Gio Bernard, Bryn Renner and Dwight Jones a shot at putting some points on the board. The real concern from UNC's perspective is Missiouri QB James Franklin who passed for over 2700 yards and threw 20 TDs vs 10 INTs. In fact Renner and Franklin are 41st and 42nd nationally in passing. Given how poorly UNC's pass defense has played this season, facing a competent QB is not a recipe for winning. In essence, UNC probably need to get the offense cooking and hope for some opportunistic takeaways to balance the scales.
UNC is playing for a fourth straight eight win season which is the perfect end to an era which had so much promise but ended up being fairly average.
UNC 28 Missouri 25