Independence Bowl 2011: Missouri's James Franklin Gives Dynamic Preview For SEC Foes

Missouri is reportedly headed to the Independence Bowl on December 26 where it will likely take on North Carolina.

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Independence Bowl 2011: Missouri's James Franklin Gives Dynamic Preview For SEC Foes

If any member of the SEC was curious about what Missouri would bring to the conference next season, they don’t have to look anymore. James Franklin is going to be the name to watch and plan for next season when any team faces Missouri. That much was clear last night as Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did his best to place his most dynamic offensive player on a pedestal for all to see as the Tigers, led by Franklin’s three touchdowns, dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels 41-24 in the 2011 Independence Bowl.

Now that the Tigers are headed to the SEC, the competition will become more formidable at the top. While some cupcakes abound in every conference, the Tigers will likely have to face a few elite level programs each season that will force them to recruit and plan better than ever if they hope to be ranked alongside them. That said, the SEC has been known to give way to dual threat quarterbacks like Franklin.

Tim Tebow took the Florida Gators to two national championships with his ability to run and throw. Cam Newton took the honor as well with Auburn and defenses had to respect his ability to also hurt a defense in multiple ways. Franklin is not on that level, so comparisons should be made lightly, but it’s hard to ignore 18 carries for 142 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns — from your quarterback.

Missouri is going to lose a significant amount of senior leadership and ability next season, so the replacements are going to have to be good along the lines. Also, Michael Egnew will leave a void at the tight end position. However, if the Tigers can sign Dorial Green-Beckham, for example, the impact of another dynamic playmaker on the outside could open up things for Franklin and the rest of Mizzou in ways that few can keep up with.

If anything, the Independence Bowl gave Missouri a chance to showcase its wares and Pinkel did just that. James Franklin, the player not the Vanderbilt coach, has now served notice to the SEC and you’d better believe they were paying attention to a performance that great.

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Despite Breaking Trophy, Missouri Tigers Win Independence Bowl Over North Carolina

The Missouri Tigers could have taken the pre-game events as a curse or omen of sorts. Instead, they realized that they didn’t need luck or fate or anything remotely close to outside forces to win the 2011 Independence Bowl over the North Carolina Tar Heels with a 41-24 victory.

The Tigers’ mascot, Truman, broke the Independence Bowl trophy before the game. In an obvious accident, the break was the story of the afternoon before kickoff and Tigers fans hoped on Twitter that it wasn’t a foreshadowing of sorts. Instead, the Tigers rolled with a dominating performance on both sides of the ball.

“Confirmed that Truman broke the Independence Bowl Trophy,” wrote Harry Plumer. “Tried to pick it up during a photo op, and it took a tumble. Was imported crystal. Asked Truman if he broke the trophy. He nodded. Asked him what happened. Threw his paws in the air, then covered his eyes to mimic sobbing. … Truman seemed as sorry as a college kid in a Tiger suit can seem.”

The Tigers finished the season at 8-5, closing out 2011 with four straight victories.

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Missouri Tigers Win 2011 Independence Bowl, Bring Momentum To SEC

James Franklin and the Missouri Tigers dominated tonight’s Independence Bowl and it’s clear that a season on the brink ended up with a solid string of wins to close out the year at 8-5 after hitting the panic button at 4-5 at one point only weeks ago. Now the Tigers have won four straight and have a dynamic young offense returning that bashed the North Carolina Tar Heels in a 41-24 victory that was never that close.

ESPN’s David Ubben writes, “Missouri will head to the SEC with some good momentum off a pretty average season. The day in Shreveport finished with an S-E-C chant from the Tigers fans who made the trip. The Tigers will face a huge challenge in a new conference next year, while North Carolina begins a brand-new era in the ACC. Interim coach Everett Withers is headed to Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator, and former Southern Miss coach (and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator) Larry Fedora will now take over in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have constantly underachieved under Butch Davis with lots of NFL talent, and Fedora will try and change that.”

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Independence Bowl Final Score: Missouri Tigers Dominate North Carolina Tar Heels

Apparently a fan base is overrated. That's because the Missouri Tigers showed up with enough energy on their own that the ridiculously sparse fan base in Shreveport for the 2011 Independence Bowl didn't affect a thing with Gary Pinkel's Missouri Tigers as they dominated every aspect of the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels in a 41-24 victory tonight.

James Franklin was undoubtedly the human highlight film and SEC teams likely took notice of the dual threat at quarterback for the Tigers. Big 12 opponents have long realized that Franklin can take a game over with the run and through the air and the Tigers relied on that tonight. Franklin went 15 of 23 for 132 passing yards and 1 touchdown, but he added another 142 rushing yards and 2 more touchdowns on the ground.

T.J. Moe had a touchdown pass of his own, while Kendial Lawrence and the rest of the Missouri ground game somehow made everyone say, "Who's Henry Josey?" (Only the leading rusher in the Big 12 at the time of his injury.) In short, the Missouri Tigers simply had the right game plan while North Carolina wilted early.

As for Carolina, Giovani Bernard was held to 13 carries for 31 rushing yards, and Dwight Jones, ruled eligible to play after some drama in the last week, had 6 catches for 77 yards and 1 touchdown. The Tigers finish at 8-5 on the season.

For more on the Mizzou Tigers, check out Rock M Nation. For info on the North Carolina Tar Heels, visit Carolina March. For everything college football, go to SB Nation's college football news hub.

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2011 Independence Bowl: Missouri's E.J. Gaines Could Play Big Role Against North Carolina

While there are bigger “name” players who will take the field today for the 2011 Independence Bowl between the Missouri Tigers and North Carolina Tar Heels, there’s one unheralded player in E.J. Gaines who could make the biggest difference. That’s what Dave Miller of the National Football Post believes when he profiles the upcoming Independence Bowl match-up.

Miller writes, “Senior defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton gets much of the attention on the Mizzou defense because of his 6-5, 305-pound frame, but cornerback E.J. Gaines is integral to the Tigers’ pass defense. He set a new school record with 16 pass break-ups and added 69 tackles, and the first-team all-Big 12 defender will need to be at his best against Dwight Jones and the UNC passing attack.”

Jones has 79 catches for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, so he’s definitely going to be a target UNC goes to again and again. If Gaines can shut him down, the Tigers should win this out easily.

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2011 Independence Bowl Pick: Missouri Tigers Predicted To Win Over North Carolina Tar Heels

At one point, the Missouri Tigers were in danger of not even making a bowl game. Now they’re predicted to win one. That’s the sort of turnaround that the Tigers have enjoyed this year after being 4-5 at one point this season. Even after losing the Big 12’s leading rusher in Henry Josey, the strength of the Missouri schedule eased a bit and James Franklin provided enough offense for Gary Pinkel’s team to return to a winning record at 7-5 and become the favorites for tonight’s Indepedence Bowl.

David Ubben of ESPN believes they are now the favorites against the Tar Heels, despite the dynamism of the UNC offense. Missouri is going to be challenged for sure given that the Tar Heels have some great young skill players like Dwight Jones, who was recently ruled eligible after some concerns off the field. Even then, Mizzou has enough weapons of their own to provide a counterbalance.

Ubben writes, “The Tigers match up pretty well with UNC, and take care of business with a solid performance from James Franklin, who tops 125 yards rushing and throws for 225, accounting for four touchdowns. The Tigers head to the SEC on the right note.”
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Independence Bowl 2011: Missouri James Franklin Could Be Game's X-Factor Against North Carolina

As quarterback James Franklin goes, so have the Missouri Tigers. That’s been the mantra this season as the Tigers have experienced an up and down year based in part on Franklin’s dynamic abilities — and inconsistencies. Yet Franklin holds more talent than most, so if there some growth curves along the way, Gary Pinkel will take it.

That’s what makes today’s match-up against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2011 Independence Bowl so fun to watch. Franklin has thrown for 20 touchdowns and rushed for another 13. His athletic ability makes them a threat to break a play open at any time. David Ubben believes he’s the main player to watch tonight.

Ubben writes, “Franklin’s the center of everything Missouri does offensively, especially since Henry Josey went down with a knee injury. When Franklin finds some running room, it opens up the passing game. And when he hits on a few passes down the field, it opens things up for his legs. He can do either to set up the other, and Missouri’s offense goes as he goes. A big day for one means a big day for the other. A bad day for one means a bad day for the other.”

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Independence Bowl 2011: Dwight Jones Ruled Eligible To Play For North Carolina Against Missouri

The North Carolina Tar Heels can breathe easy knowing that their star wide receiver Dwight Jones is now eligible to play in the upcoming Independence Bowl against the Missouri Tigers. He was temporarily ruled ineligible for allowing his likeness to appear on a poster for a local club, breaking a rule that prohibits college athletes from endorsing any event or product with their image.

Andrew Carter writes, "North Carolina had declared Jones ineligible after he allowed his name and likeness to be used to promote a New Year’s Eve birthday party in his honor at a club in Burlington, his hometown. By allowing his name and image to be used on a flier promoting the party, Jones had committed a secondary NCAA violation.

“After the flier surfaced Monday on the popular sports website Deadspin.com, Withers and other North Carolina officials began talks with the NCAA about Jones’ status. North Carolina announced on Tuesday that it had ruled Jones ineligible, and that it had applied with the NCAA for his reinstatement.”

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Big 12 Bowl Season Kicks Off With Missouri Vs. North Carolina

Only the Big 12 and SEC have had all of their member schools play in a postseason bowl game over the last four years. Eight of the 10 Big 12 teams will be in action over the next two weeks.

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Independene Bowl 2011: North Carolina's Dwight Jones Ruled Ineligible For Missouri Game

The upcoming Independence Bowl contest between the Missouri Tigers and North Carolina Tar Heels already features two teams aiming to get the best out of a 2011 resume they’d rather forget. North Carolina is going to find that task a bit more difficult with the news that star wide receiver Dwight Jones has been ruled ineligible to play due to his okaying the use of his likeness on a club’s promotional poster.

Bill Pollock reports, "Jones was ruled ineligible for the game after he allowed his name and photo to appear on a flyer promoting a party at a club in his hometown of Burlington which is just 30 miles from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. The NCAA has a rule prohibiting athletes’ from lending their likeness to any promotional materials for off-campus, revenue generating establishments.

“Jones is going to play in the NFL next year, but may have played his last college game. Jones had 79 catches for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns.”

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Independence Bowl 2011: Missouri Vs. North Carolina Match-Up Ranks No. 24 On Bowl Rankings List

It’s not the finish that either team can be that happy about. After all, the Missouri Tigers especially were hoping for another double digit win season, for James Franklin to prove to be the next great Missouri passer, and for Gary Pinkel to deliver another strong bowl game as the team heads into the greater frontier of the SEC. At this point, however, the Tigers are feeling good to just make it into a bowl game after being on the verge of missing out entirely.

Now they face the North Carolina Tar Heels and both teams are at 7-5. Dave Miller recently posted another Bowl Rankings Countdown previewing each bowl from 1 to 35 in terms of strongest to weakest bowl game match-up. He gives the Independence Bowl the No. 24 ranking and writes, “Mizzou dual-threat quarterback James Franklin will be tested by a defense that, while not a dominant force this fall, still has plenty of NFL talent.”

That’s not much in the way of a preview, and that’s also a sign of the level of interest in this game on the national level. At the very least, the ability to hit the 8-win total and gain another bowl win on the resumes of the school is enough for both teams to play for.

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Independence Bowl At A Glance: Missouri Faces North Carolina

The Missouri Tigers were relegated to the Independence Bowl for the third time in nine years. How do they matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels from the ACC?

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