Missouri hopes to extend its momentum into the bowl season as it plays its final football game as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
The Tigers played one of the nation’s toughest schedules and suffered a number of heart-breaking losses. But with a 4-5 record and bowl eligibility in doubt, Missouri won its final three games to finish 7-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12.
Missouri will face North Carolina from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels went 7-5 under interim coach Everett Withers. He took over after Butch Davis was fired during an NCAA investigation of rules violations. North Carolina has hired Larry Fedora as its new coach but he won’t take over until after the bowl game.
The Independence Bowl is not one of the bowls affiliated with the Big 12. The Conference had more bowl-eligible teams than bowl partners and Missouri took the place of a Mountain West Conference team in Shreveport.
Missouri is playing in a school-record seventh consecutive bowl. The Tigers started their bowl streak in the Independence Bowl when Brad Smith helped Mizzou engineer the biggest comeback in school history. Missouri rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat South Carolina.
Missouri vs. North Carolina
Need to know: 4 p.m., Dec. 26, Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La., ESPN2.
Team records: Missouri 7-5, North Carolina 7-5.
The Tigers led the Big 12 in rushing but will be without the Conference’s top rusher; sophomore Henry Josey went down with a knee injury on Nov. 12 and missed the last two games. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin had a solid season, averaging nearly 300 yards in total offense per game. The Tigers are second in the Big 12 in total defense and third in scoring defense.
Scouting North Carolina
Giovani Bernard rushed for a freshman record 1,222 yards. Bernard is the first Tar Heel to rush for more than 1,000 yards since 1997. When he gains 100 or more yards, the Tar Heels are 5-1. Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner has thrown for 23 touchdowns – matching the school record. The Tar Heels are No. 16 nationally in rushing defense so they should provide a tough test for Missouri’s running game.
Missouri was selected by the Independence Bowl when the Mountain West Conference didn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill its commitment. … This will be the Tigers’ final game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. … Missouri has won each of the previous two games with North Carolina, but the teams have not met since 1976. … North Carolina’s offensive line averages 317 pounds. … Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner led the ACC by completing 69 percent of his passes.