Missouri Tigers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Missouri Tigers (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS), Monday December 26th, 2011. 5:00PM EST. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Independence Stadium Shreveport, L.A.

By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: MO -4.5/UNC +4.5
Over/Under Total: 52.5

One day after everyone gets done unwrapping presents under the Christmas Tree, our attention will once again return to the college gridiron. This year’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl will kick start a host of exciting bowl games leading up to New Year’s Day. However, this year’s Independence Bowl pairing just may be one of the most intriguing match-ups on the horizon when the Missouri Tigers meet the North Carolina Tar Heels at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, L.A.

Both North Carolina and Missouri had nearly identical paths leading up to their big postseason contest. The Tar Heels finished the season with a 7-5 record and 6-6 ATS. The Tigers also finished with a 7-5 record and also 6-6 ATS. Additionally both teams finished right in the middle of their respected conferences making this an interesting measuring stick between the Big 12 and the ACC.

As we compared the similarities between both teams previously, their differences will create another interesting match-up on the field. Missouri has been strong on the offensive side of the ball this season while North Carolina has struggled for the most part offensively. On the other hand, North Carolina’s defense has played really well this season while Missouri’s defense has struggled. Therefore, which side of the football will prevail?

The Tigers have averaged 472 yards of total offense (12 in NCAA) and 236 yards per game on the ground (11th in NCAA). Sophomore running back Henry Josey is the start of the Missouri offense. Josey has racked up 1,168 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. More impressively, Josey has averaged a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry on the year. QB James Franklin has also added a lot of yards on the ground this season with his legs as well. Franklin is a dual threat quarterback that will run the ball just as much as he will throw it. Franklin has put together 839 rushing yards with 13 scores already on the ground this season. Together with Josey, the two talented rushers make up one solid rushing force for the Tigers offense.

Still, Missouri may have to make some passes if North Carolina’s defense can stand strong against the run. Franklin has completed 63% passing for 2,733 yards with 20 scores and 10 picks so far on the season. WR T.J Moe is the leading receiver with 649 yards and 4 scores on the year. Missouri is not necessarily a big passing team like you might expect from most Big 12 schools. However, they can make plays in the passing game to move the chains. Still, the offense’s bread and butter will be attacking with their dynamic passing attack.

For North Carolina, they have struggled on offense this season averaging 396 yards (52nd in NCAA) and 28.33 points (57th in NCAA) per game. QB Bryn Renner has had an interesting sophomore season with highs and lows. Renner has completed 68.8% passing for 2,769 yards with 23 scores and 12 picks. On paper those numbers do not appear that bad, but the turnovers and the inability to complete the deep ball has really held the passing offense back. WR Dwight Jones is an extremely talented receiver that provides a big target for Renner. Jones has racked up 1,119 yards and 11 scores already this season. If the offense gets close to the goal line, expect a jump ball type passes to Jones to put 6 on the board.

While the passing attack has had some struggles, the one bright spot all year has been running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard just may have been the best freshman in the entire country this season and he will only get better which is some good news for the powder blue faithful. On the year, Bernard racked up 1,222 yards with 13 touchdowns while averaging over 5 yards per carry. In the season finale against Duke, Bernard had his biggest performance of the season carrying the ball 30 times for 165 yards with 1 touchdown. Don’t be surprised if Bernard gets another heavy dose of action again when these two teams square off in Shreveport.

Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: North Carolina’s defense has really struggled through the 2nd half of the season and I do not think that bodes well for them in this spot. The Tar Heels allowed 28.5 points per game over their final 6 games and that could be a telling tale for their meeting with the Tigers. Both teams may appear similar on paper, but 4 of Missouri’s 5 losses were against teams that finished the year inside the top 25. I just think there is a big difference in these two teams and the Tigers will be poised for a big win. Take Missouri -4.5.

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