College bowl week continues Friday with a second consecutive trio of games. The first game on the slate is the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl featuring the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks headed to an in-state bowl to face the Ohio Bobcats of the MAC. Both teams have had high points in their 8-4 seasons and one of them will be looking to finish with a nice bowl victory.
When to Watch: 2:00 PM ET, Friday, December 28
Where to Watch: Live on ESPN from Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
What to Watch For
When Ohio has the ball: The Bobcats built on their momentum from last year’s bowl win to start the season 7-0 including an opening week upset of Penn State in Happy Valley. They’re offense is led again this year by junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton who has been able to avoid turnovers (three interceptions all year) and threw for 2,513 yards and 15 touchdowns. The workhorse in the offense is junior running back Beau Blankenship who took his 293 carries for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Bobcats started the year with big offensive numbers scoring 30 or more five times in their 7-0 start, but have slowed down lately scoring 20 or less three times in their 1-4 finish to the season. They were held to a season-low six points in their regular season finale at then-#23 Kent State.
The Louisiana-Monroe defense may not be among the elite in the country, but they have proven to be extremely opportunistic with 15 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries on the season. They ranked in the middle of the pack in most overall categories while faring better against the run (32 in the nation) than the pass (107 in the nation). ULM is listed as a 3-3-5 defensive scheme but tends to move players around and give a variety of looks which could cause issues for Tettleton and the Bobcats offense which been trending downward lately.
When ULM has the ball: ULM’s offense centers around dual-threat QB Kolton Browning who let the team in rushing with 441 yards and threw for 2,830 despite missing most of two games due to a foot injury. The two tames he missed were ULM’s only late-season losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. The Warhawks will look to Browning and their 1,000-yard receiver Brent Leonard to power their offense which has scored almost 28 points a game and reached 35 points in six of their 12 games this season.
Ohio’s defense has unfortunately trended much like the offense has after a hot start trailing off towards the end of the season. They allowed 80 points and 965 yards in their final two games against Kent State and Ball State. Ohio’s defense ranks in the middle of the pack nationally but their recent struggles could be exploited by Browning.
Who to Watch For (NFL Prospects)
The Warhawks don’t have any standout prospects who are expected to be drafted this year. Ohio’s kicker Matt Weller is a fringe option sitting near the edge of the top ten kickers available this year while offensive lineman Skyler Allen at center and Eric Herman at guard could go in the late rounds of this year’s draft.
The Warhawks are playing close to home and are trending upwards. Ohio won a bowl game last year, but stumbled to the finish. Bobcats coach Frank Solich has a solid history at Ohio and could definitely get things turned back around with the extra time, but I think it’s more likely that Louisiana-Monroe keeps rolling.
The current spread is 7.5 but it’s hard to pick an Ohio team even getting the points since they’ve gone just 2-8 against the spread in their last ten while Louisiana-Monroe is 7-3. In this year’s Independence Bowl, I’d give the points and take ULM for the win and the cover.