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Independence Bowl preview: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Independence Bowl
Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4)
Dec. 28, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

About the Bobcats: Ohio was a hot story early in the season, getting in the Top 25 for the first time since 1968. The Bobcats faded after that, losing four of their last five games to close out the regular season. Coming into this game, Ohio is dealing with some injuries. Two starting offensive linemen will miss the Independence Bowl and a third, Eric Herman (elbow), will be playing despite being questionable for the game, the Athens Messenger said. A couple of key defensive linemen are banged up but will probably play as well. The Bobcats will have to rely on quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship, who had 1,500 yards this season.

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ULM QB Kolton Browning (USA Today Sports Images)

About the Warhawks: Louisiana-Monroe joined the FBS in 1994, and this is the school's first bowl appearance. The Warhawks made a splash right away this season by pulling off what was a huge upset at the time over Arkansas. The Razorbacks had a terrible season, but that win propelled Monroe to its best FBS season with eight wins. ULM lost close games against Auburn and Baylor early in the season, then lost two more later in the season when quarterback Kolton Browning was dealing with an injury. Browning is the Warhawks' key player, with 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Key number: 1-5
Ohio is just 1-5 in its bowl history, but the lone win was a dramatic one last year. The Bobcats put together a 61-yard drive in the final couple minutes of the Potato Bowl last year, and Tettleton's 1-yard run with 13 seconds remaining along with the extra point gave Ohio a 24-23 win over Utah State.

The breakdown: These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Both had big early-season upsets (Ohio knocked off Penn State, ULM beat Arkansas) and hit some bumps late in the year but finished with identical 8-4 records. Ohio likes to run the ball, the Warhawks are better passing it, but nothing in particular gives either team a huge statistical edge. This should be a very close game.

Predictions
Frank Schwab: Louisiana-Monroe 24, Ohio 21

These two teams are very similar, but usually home-field advantage is worth three points, so that's what I'll give ULM, playing about 100 miles from campus.

Graham Watson: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 21
These two teams were two of the more entertaining non-automatic qualifying sides with wins against some major opponents throughout the season. Louisiana-Monroe is playing in its first bowl game as a member of the BCS and I think it’s going to be a memorable one. This team has a lot of weapons and will have no trouble putting up points against an Ohio team that struggled on both offense and defense down the stretch.

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