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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.
Synopsis: Early on the afternoon of Oct. 6, Ohio became the first team to officially achieve bowl eligibility with its sixth victory. The Bobcats, who opened the season with a win at Penn State, actually improved to 7-0 and spent a week at No. 23 in the coaches poll and entertained dreams of doing what Northern Illinois accomplished, becoming the first MAC squad to break into the BCS. Then came something of a market correction as Ohio dropped four of its last five league contests, the last three to bowl-bound opponents. All of which is to say the Bobcats might be at a disadvantage in the motivation department with this trip to Louisiana against the Warhawks, who are understandably excited to be in the postseason for the first time since elevating to the FBS in 1994. ULM dual-threat QB Kolton Browning figures to have a big day against the Bobcats' defense that didn't hold up well against similar attacks in the MAC. The Warhawks' backfield was hit hard by injuries, so Browning probably will make extensive use of WR Brent Leonard. Watch for backup QB Cody Wells to make spot appearance as well, which might give Browning opportunities to sneak out to the edge for receptions. Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton has had to scramble more than he would like, thanks to some injuries along the front line. If he has time, and if TB Beau Blankenship can get rolling to allow for effective play fakes, he'll be able to get WR Donte Foster involved.
Kolton Browning (QB, ULM, Jr.). You might remember Kolton Browning from such episodes as, "The Warhawks shock Arkansas in overtime," and, "They almost do the same to Auburn and Baylor." UL-Monroe was one of September's most entertaining stories, and despite some key injuries, the Warhawks played at a high enough level to qualify for their first-ever bowl game. Browning is the lynchpin, a lefty with a funky release who serves as a perfect hub for ULM's short passing game. A year after completing just 58 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions, Browning improved to 65 percent, 27 TDs and seven INTs in 2012. He has a deep, interesting receiving corps, and despite increased pressure on the passing game -- with season-ending injuries to two different ULM backs, Jyruss Edwards and Centarius Donald, the two RBs atop the depth chart have combined for just 106 carries this season -- Browning has come through. He missed most of two losses (UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State) with his own injury, meaning ULM is 8-2 when Browning is healthy enough to finish the game. He can run, too, when he needs to.
Tyler Tettleton (QB, Ohio, Jr.). Somehow only a junior, Tettleton is already Ohio's all-time leader in passing downs and makes up one-half of Ohio's all-Oklahoma backfield. Both Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship hail from Norman, OK, and it feels like both of them have been at Ohio since about 2003. The 6'0, 200-pound Tettleton is an interesting combination of aggressive runner (90 non-sack carries for 421 yards, four touchdowns) and conservative passer; he both takes and delivers hits, rushing eight or nine times per game and getting sacked on seven percent of his pass attempts, but he takes few chances through the air and has thrown just three interceptions all season. Like Browning, he spreads the ball around pretty well -- 10 different Bobcats have been targeted at least 10 times this year, and seven have been targeted at least 24 times -- but that perhaps wasn't by choice. No. 1 receiver Donte Foster has been battling injuries for much of the season, and Ohio has been desperate to find a vertical threat. Most of Tettleton's sacks came in the season's home stretch, when Foster's injuries had their largest impact.
If you like uniqueness in your college football, this game is for you. ULM runs a confusing defense and a high-paced, spread-the-field-and-send-the-ball-to-every-nook-and-cranny offense. And Kolton Browning even adds some funkiness to the table with his weird throwing motion and skill set. Ohio, meanwhile, runs a lot, has an interesting dual-threat quarterback, and throws the ball to anybody and everybody when it has to. Ohio is much more normal than ULM in the way it goes about attempting to win football games, but neither team is without its funkiness (and flaws).
Frank Schwab: Louisiana-Monroe 24, Ohio 21
These two teams are very similar, but usually home-field advantage is worth three points, so that's what I'll give ULM, playing about 100 miles from campus.
Graham Watson: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 21
These two teams were two of the more entertaining non-automatic qualifying sides with wins against some major opponents throughout the season. Louisiana-Monroe is playing in its first bowl game as a member of the BCS and I think it’s going to be a memorable one. This team has a lot of weapons and will have no trouble putting up points against an Ohio team that struggled on both offense and defense down the stretch.
ABOUT RUTGERS (9-3, 5-2 Big East, 7-5 ATS): The Scarlet Knights have won five straight bowl games, tied with Mississippi State for the nation's longest current streak. Coach Kyle Flood is looking to become the third Rutgers coach - and only first-year coach - in school history to win 10 or more games in a season. The Knights have been stingy on defense all year long, ranking fourth in the nation in scoring defense (14.3 points) and 14th in total defense (321.3 yards per game). Offensively, look for a lot of sophomore running back Jawan Jamison, who rushed for 1,054 yards and can help set up the Rutgers' passing game. Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova is solid, throwing for 2,566 yards in his first full season as a starter.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (6-6, 4-4 ACC, 3-9 ATS): The Hokies struggled this year after a trip to the Sugar Bowl last season. Quarterback Logan Thomas is a big key for Virginia Tech's success as he ranks as the team's top passer (2,783 yards, 17 touchdowns) and rusher (526, nine). The Virginia Tech defense has been solid against the pass, allowing 204.9 yards per contest. Linebacker Jack Tyler has been a force this year, leading the team in total tackles (112) and tackles for loss (11) while recording 2.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. Getting off to a fast start is important for the Hokies, but it hasn't been easy this year, with the team leading at halftime in only three of its contests.
* Favorite is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Scarlet Knights are 2-5 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Under is 4-1 in Hokies' last five Bowl games.
* Under is 15-5 in Scarlet Knights' last 20 non-conference games.
Rutgers: 17-6 ATS away off BB ATS losses
Virginia Tech: 0-6 ATS away vs. non-conference opponents
Synopsis: The Hokies extended their streak of bowl appearances to 17 — barely — in what was an uninspiring season by their lofty standards, needing wins against Boston College and Virginia in their last two games to make it to six. Rutgers missed out on claiming the Big East crown outright in its final loss to Louisville, but the season was still a solid start for rookie head coach Kyle Flood. Virginia Tech can point to both sides of the ball to find reasons for its struggles. QB Logan Thomas made plays but tended to give the ball away at inopportune moments, and the defense surrendered 345 yards a game — still third in the ACC but not up to coordinator Bud Foster's usual expectations. WRs Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller must find ways to get open. The ground support behind Thomas was inconsistent, and that doesn't figure to change with LB Khaseem Greene plugging holes for the Scarlet Knights' defense. Rutgers QB Gary Nova had some big games but also his share of picks. The Knights would like to keep it in the hands of TB Jawan Jamison, which will mean a busy day for Tech LB Jack Tyler.