Ohio Bobcats vs. UL Monroe Warhawks (-7, 60)
ADVOCARE V100 INDEPENDENCE BOWL STORYLINES
1. It did not take long for either team to make a major splash on the national scene this season. One week after Ohio opened its season Sept. 1 with a victory at Penn State, Louisiana-Monroe started what would become a historic campaign with a win over then-No. 10 Arkansas. The Warhawks are playing in the first bowl game in program history. The Bobcats gained a bowl bid for the fourth straight time and the fifth time since 2006.
2. Both teams had some bumps in the road following their season-opening victories over major-conference opponents, most notably Ohio. The Bobcats gained a Top 25 ranking after going 7-0, but lost four of their last five, the last three by a combined score of 106-47.
3. Louisiana-Monroe lost only two of its last nine games. It is not a coincidence that those two games came with quarterback Kolton Browning on the sidelines with a foot injury. Since coming back, Browning has returned to form and enters this one on a roll. In his last two games of the regular season, the junior completed 77.8 percent (56-for-72) of his passes and accounted for six touchdowns, including two on the ground.TV:
2 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE:
Louisiana-Monroe opened as low as -6 and has been bet up as high as -7.5. The total opened at 60 and has moved to 61 points.
56 percent of Covers Consensus plays are on UL Monroe while 54 percent are on the over.WEATHER:
There is a 60 percent chance of rain for Independence Stadium and temperatures are expected to be in the low 50s. Winds are expected to blow NNW at 6 mph.TRENDS:
* Bobcats are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
* Warhawks are 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. MAC.
* Over is 4-0 in Bobcats' last four vs. S-Belt.
* Over is 6-0 in Warhawks' last six non-conference games.ABOUT OHIO (8-4, 4-4 MAC, 4-8 ATS):
The Bobcats' 7-0 start was their best since 1968 and it came on the heels of a victory over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season. However, to finish on a strong note again they will need to get over the late-season skid. In the finale against Kent State, Ohio's own mistakes hurt. Frank Solich's squad had two turnovers in the first quarter, both of which were returned for touchdowns. The Bobcats got the usual contributions from junior running back Beau Blankenship, whose 145 rushing yards gave him exactly 1,500 for the season, good enough to rank ninth nationally. Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton was a steady presence under center. He had 16 touchdowns against only three interceptions and ran for four more scores. Ohio was invited to participate in the Independence Bowl after Louisiana Tech, which finished 9-3, did not immediately act on an invitation from bowl officials.
ABOUT LOUISIANA-MONROE (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt, 8-4 ATS):
Browning's primary target has been Brent Leonard, who ranks sixth nationally with 97 catches, 10 of which have gone for touchdowns. Leonard had 13 catches, including two on the game-winning drive in overtime, in the Warhawks' 23-17 victory over Florida International in the last game of the regular season. That was one of four overtime games for Louisiana-Monroe. They won three of them, including the opener against Arkansas, showing the late-game mettle that has made this the best Warhawks team since it joined what would become the FBS in 1994. This game will be played less than two hours away by car from the Warhawks' campus, making this a veritable home game for Todd Berry's team.