Posted on: December 19, 2011 6:52 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Independence Bowl
James Franklin, QB, Missouri vs. North Carolina's defensive front
Ever since Missouri lost running back Henry Josey to a season-ending knee injury, most of the offensive success has been based around what sophomore quarterback James Franklin can create. De'Vion Moore has seen an increased workload at running back and Kendial Lawrence has added three strong performances since the Big 12's leading rusher saw his season ended by the "one in a million" injury.
The good news for Missouri is that Franklin has stepped up in Josey's absence, leading the Tigers to three straight wins to close the regular season. Because of Franklin's rushing ability, the Tigers' offense has not become one-dimensional after the loss of their leading rusher. However, North Carolina's defensive front presents one of Franklin's toughest challenges on the season.
The Tar Heels' front seven is anchored by Quinton Coples, Tydreke Powell, and linebacker Zach Brown. All three received All-ACC honors or mention, and all three are seniors who have earned the interest of NFL scouts. North Carolina ranks No. 2 in the ACC and 14th nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 106.2 yards per game. They were one of the only teams to hold both Miami's Lamar Miller and Virginia Tech's David Wilson under 100 yards rushing this season, and have only allowed nine rushing touchdowns on the year.
But despite the impressive statistics, the defense has suffered lapses at times this season and struggled to get off the field when they needed a big stop. There will likely several occasions in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport where Missouri needs to convert a third down and it will be Franklin against the Tar Heels. Containing the Tigers' star quarterback is the only way North Carolina can hope to give Gio Bernard, Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels' offense a chance to find a rhythm against Missouri's stout D.
Check out all the latest updates on Missouri and North Carolina right up until kickoff at the Independence Bowl Pregame
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Tags: ACC, Big 12, Bowl Predictions, Bowl Previews, Bowl Projections, Chip Patterson, Everett Withers, Gary Pinkel, Henry Josey, Independence Bowl Matchup, Independence Bowl Preview, James Franklin, Kareem Martin, Kevin Reddick, Key Matchup, Keys to the Game, Larry Fedora, Missouri, North Carolina, North Carolina, Quinton Coples, SEC, Sylvester Williams, Tydreke Powell, Zach Brown