Tigers and Tarheels matchup after Christmas
This match up is a tale of two halves of each season, respectively, for Missouri and North Carolina. These two teams will meet in the Independence Bowl on December 26, but the way things have gone for each team could not be more opposite. The Missouri Tigers have won three straight games to end the season with a record of 7-5, while the North Carolina Tar heels have sputtered after a hot 5-1 start, since only winning two of its last four games and finishing the season with the same record of 7-5. What the Tar Heels have done under interim coach Everett Whithers has been impressive, but to secure his status as the coach of the Tar Heels, a victory against the SEC-bound Tigers should be high up on the list.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel , after deciding to start the year with sophomore quarterback James Franklin, knew that it would not be wise to put all of the pressure on him, and decided to build the team's strength around a running game led by Henry Josey. Henry Josey, who was the Big 12 conference rushing leader, suffered an injury against the Texas Longhorns that ended his season, thus giving the starting running back job to Kendi Lawrence.
The North Carolina Tar Heels, coming from the ACC, have proven to be very solid against non-conference opponents, but have struggled against their conference rivals. The Tar Heels have leaned on quarterback Bryn Renner, who has an astounding 68% completion percentage. Another solid contributor to the Tar Heel offensive attack has been running back Giovani Bernard. The most dangerous threat in the Tar Heels offense is wide receiver Dwight Jones, who has amassed over 1100 receiving yards over the season. Like Missouri, their defense is solid but unspectacular, but if there is one weakness to this Tar Heel team, it is the inability to hold on to the football. Tar Heel ball carriers have fumbled the ball 24 times, and compared to the 15 times that Missouri has fumbled, and that is a sure way to give opposing teams a victory.
From an outsider's perspective, it is easy to assume that Missouri would be victorious just by how well the two teams have played as of late. Another black mark for North Carolina is the fact that their team is based in a very weak ACC conference that only has two ranked teams in the whole conference. The fact that North Carolina has lost most of their ACC conference games, and only beaten weak non-conference opponents would seem to shift the tide of victory over to the Tigers, but in the game of football, nothing is certain.
The biggest problem that the Missouri Tigers will be dealing with is the continued loss of star running back Henry Josue. It is hard to replace a contributor that had an 8.1 YPC average. Missouri based almost the entire game plan on the talents of Josey and that production will not be matched through the efforts of Kendi Lawrence. The Tigers have a lack of quick-strike ability due to limited talent at wide receiver, as well as a young quarterback, so if the Tar Heels want to make a run at the Tigers, they must be patient and score when the opportunity rises. Sometimes a punt is a successful possession if it means field position.
There is no way to decide which team will be victorious because only the players and coaches can have a say in that. If Missouri is already thinking about going to the SEC and decides not to give a full effort against North Carolina, then the Tar Heels could easily walk away with the victory.