Bobcats vs Warhawks NCAA Football Spread/Handicapping
The Independence Bowl should feel like a home game for the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who are clashing in their home state with some visitors from the Midwest – the MAC’s Ohio Bobcats.
Ohio Bobcats (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4)
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 2 pm EST
Independence Stadium, Shreveport LA
Betting Information Courtesy Sportsbook.com
Ohio +240, UL-Monroe -280
Ohio +7, UL-Monroe -7
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Part of the reason both programs find themselves bowling this holiday season was their penchant for upsets on the big stage.
UL-Monroe was talk around the water cooler when it upset then-#8 Arkansas, 34-31. Though the Razorbacks were overrated, it was still a nice win against an SEC opponent. In subsequent weeks, the Hawks also came very close to upsetting Auburn and Baylor. The Hawks certainly proved they are a team that can play with anybody.
For Ohio’s part, it had a fantastic start to the season. The Bobcats beat a reeling Penn State program in the first week of the season, and snapped off seven straight victories to start the 2012 regular season. Ohio has come back down to Earth lately, however – the Bobcats have lost three of their last four games.
Come kickoff, it will be interesting to see if UL-Monroe can draw energy from what will be a fairly partisan crowd and use it to play some inspired defense, and stifling Ohio’s strong running attack in doing so. The Bobcats average over 200 yards per game on the ground, led by junior RB Beau Blankenship (a fantastic 1,500 rush yards, 11 TDs) and RB Ryan Boykin (445 yards, six yards per carry). If Ohio can gouge the Warhawks with some long runs, that will be its best chance for victory.
As far as UL-Monroe is concerned, it has an explosive offense of its own. The Warhawks take flight with QB Kolton Browning, a dual-threat junior that racked up 2,830 passing yards and 27 pass TDs to go along with 441 rush yards and seven scores on the ground. Browning also led the team in rushing. Browning’s main playmaker is senior WR Brent Leonard, who broke the 1,000-yard barrier (1,042 receiving yards) and snagged double-digit TDs.
It seems like the Hawks have built a slightly more impressive CV than Ohio this season; the Bobcats’ big win was against a Penn State team just coming to grips with the demolishing sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky case, and the corresponding national media storm. The Nittany Lions have since found their way, and finished with an impressive season. The Warhawks, meanwhile, played three excellent games in succession against two SEC opponents and one Big 12 foe. Not bad for a program from the lowly Sun Belt Conference. It also cannot be denied that Ohio hasn’t been moving in the right direction lately, while UL-Monroe is coming off two straight wins.
Though the Bobcats should make some noise with their running attack, I expect Browning to have a big day under center, and I could see Ohio struggling to air the ball out if it is forced to play from behind. Look for the Warhawks to keep a bowl victory in Louisiana on Dec. 28.
Score Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 24