Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe

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Ohio's Tyler Tettleton is one of the nation's top non-BCS quarterbacks.

<p> Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe</p>

Two of the nation’s most talented and exciting dual-threat quarterbacks will share the spotlight when Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe face each other for the first time. The Bobcats, led by junior signal caller Tyler Tettleton are playing in their fourth straight bowl after winning eight or more games for the fourth straight season. However, all has not been positive for Ohio lately, as the team has dropped four of its last five games, after starting the season 7-0 and earning a top 25 national ranking.

On the other side, Louisiana-Monroe finds itself in unchartered territory as the Warhawks are playing in their first-ever bowl game. An accomplishment made possible by a season-opening overtime upset of then No. 10-ranked Arkansas, which was orchestrated by junior quarterback Kolton Browning. Besides beating the Hogs, the Warhawks also nearly beat Auburn on the road, lost by just five points to Baylor, and tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference with a mark of 6-2. Head coach Todd Berry was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year after leading ULM to its most wins in nearly 20 years.

This matchup should feature plenty of offensive fireworks, as both teams are averaging more than 435 yards of total offense and 30 points per game.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl – Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4)

Date and Time: Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. ET
Network: ESPN
Location: Shreveport, La.

When the Ohio Bobcats have the ball:

Tettleton is the engine that powers the Bobcats’ balanced attack, one that averaged more than 200 yards per game both running and throwing the ball. Tettleton’s own numbers have not been as impressive this season compared to last, when he accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of offense and 38 total touchdowns.

Hampered somewhat by injuries, Tettleton has been responsible for 2,713 yards of total offense and 21 total scores thus far. He has done another solid job of protecting the ball, as he has just three interceptions on the season. Junior wide receiver Donte Foster is Tettleton’s favorite target, as his 56 catches, 629 yards and seven touchdowns lead the team. Tettelton himself has caught two passes for 52 yards and a score this season.

After rushing for 658 yards last season, Tettleton has seen his carries decline this fall due to the emergence of junior running back Beau Blankenship. Blankenship leads the team with 1,500 yards rushing, as his 125 yards per game average is good for 10th in the nation,  and 11 touchdowns. He’s had eight 100-yard efforts, including the last two contests, and earned second-team All-Mid-American Conference (MAC) honors.

Louisiana-Monroe’s defense is on opposite ends of the national rankings when you compare how the unit has fared against the run to the pass. The Warhawks are 30th in rushing defense, allowing 135.8 yards on the ground per game, but 104th in passing yards allowed (271.5 ypg). One thing that has helped mitigate the damage done by teams through the air, however, are the 15 passes the defense has picked off, which ties it for 23rd in the FBS ranks. The Warhawks also have forced a total of 24 turnovers, a reason why they find themselves ranked more in the middle of the pack (tied for 62nd) in scoring defense, giving up less than 28 points per contest.

When the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks have the ball:

The Warhawks’ offense revolves around Browning, who was named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year after piling up 3,271 yards of total offense and accounting for 34 total touchdowns. Browning is the team’s leading rusher with 441 yards and seven scores on the ground, while throwing for another 2,830 with 27 touchdown passes.

Browning has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes and has thrown just seven interceptions on the season. Senior wide receiver Brent Leonard leads the way with 97 receptions for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns and was named first-team All-Sun Belt. Juniors Je’Ron Hamm and Tavarese Maye complement Leonard and have combined for 110 catches and nine scores. All told, 17 different Warhawks have caught a pass and 10 have at least one touchdown reception.

While Browning leads the team in carries, yards and rushing touchdowns, junior running backs Jyruss Edwards and Monterrell Washington also help carry the load. The duo has combined for 790 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

Statistically, teams have had better success running the ball on Ohio’s defense, as opposed to passing it. The Bobcats are giving up more than 164 yards on the ground per game, compared to nearly 230 yards through the air. They have surrendered an average of 25.7 points per game, but that has risen to 35.3 during their current three-game losing streak.

Final Analysis

Both of these teams come into this game with eight wins and an impressive non-conference win on their resumes. While Louisiana-Monroe upset a then-ranked Arkansas team at home to open its season, Ohio took down Penn State in Happy Valley in its first game as well. However, that was back in September, and a lot has happened since then. The Warhawks are not only playing in their first-ever bowl game, they are entering it on a two-game winning streak, while the Bobcats have dropped their last three in a row. These appear to be teams headed in opposite directions with ULM is looking for the most wins the program has had in nearly 20 years, while Ohio is wondering what might have been after starting the season 7-0 and earning a top 25 ranking. Momentum looks to be on the side of the Warhawks, who will ride Browning’s arm and the energy generated from playing in their home state to finish a memorable and history-making season on a winning note.

Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 27


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