Ole Miss, Oklahoma State set to meet in Sugar Bowl
NEW ORLEANS >> Mississippi learned last season it's a huge honor and lots of fun to play in one of the major bowl games.
The Rebels also found out how embarrassing it is to get blown out on such a big stage.
So No. 16 Ole Miss (9-3) has a little added motivation on Friday when it faces No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl. It's the first time the Rebels have played in the game since 1970 and the first trip to New Orleans for the Cowboys since 1946.
"Last year we kind of blew it," Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins said. "We're here to redeem ourselves."
Ole Miss was in a similar situation last year when it won nine games during the regular season and played TCU in the Peach Bowl. The Rebels lost 42-3 in a game that is still a sore subject for several players and coaches.
Now, players and coaches say they're ready for a do-over.
Ole Miss has had an up-and-down season of impressive wins (Alabama) and head-scratching losses (Memphis, Arkansas). The Rebels closed the season on a roll, beating LSU and Mississippi State heading into the Sugar Bowl.
Junior quarterback Chad Kelly leads the Ole Miss attack. He has thrown for 3,740 yards and 27 touchdowns. He's also run for 427 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Kelly said Oklahoma State's defense is impressive on tape.
"They are physical and fast, they like to press their corners and get after the quarterback," Kelly said. "They are always going to have great players because their coaches recruit so well. I'm anxious to get out there and see what we can do against them."
Oklahoma State also is looking for a measure of redemption after late November didn't go like the program hoped.
The Cowboys were in the middle of the college football playoff discussion after winning their first 10 games, but back-to-back losses to Baylor and Oklahoma in the final two weeks of the season knocked them back to the Sugar Bowl.
Beating an SEC team in the season finale would be a good consolation prize.
"This game is like the college Super Bowl to us ... it's the SEC versus the Big 12, we have to go out there are show them that we are not a conference people can just push around," Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. "We just have to go out there and be the best team we can be."
Here are some other things to watch in Friday's Sugar Bowl:
NO NKEMDICHES: The Rebels will be missing two of their best defensive players in the Sugar Bowl. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche was suspended for Friday's game after he fell out of a hotel window in Atlanta and was charged with possession of marijuana. The junior, who has already said he will enter the NFL draft, had seven tackles for a loss and three sacks this season. His older brother, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, hasn't played since November after he went to the hospital for an undisclosed reason. He is fourth on the team with 53 tackles.
TUNSIL VS OGBAH: It should be a matchup of elite players when Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil takes on Oklahoma State defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah. Both are considered potential first-round picks in this spring's NFL draft. Tunsil's done a good job — since he returned from a 7-game NCAA suspension — of protecting QB Chad Kelly's blindside while Ogbah has 28 career sacks, which leads all active NCAA players.
POSTSEASON RIVALRY: The Rebels and Cowboys have some recent postseason history. Ole Miss beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl in both 2004 (31-28) and 2010 (21-7). Eli Manning was the quarterback of the Rebels' 2004 team. Now the programs meet in the Sugar Bowl for the first time.
TWO QBs FOR OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowboys will likely use two quarterbacks on Friday — sophomore Mason Rudolph and senior J.W. Walsh. Rudolph has thrown for 3,591 yards and 21 touchdowns. Walsh has thrown for 663 yards and 13 touchdowns while also running for 11 touchdowns.
PLENTY OF OFFENSE: For those who like touchdowns, the Sugar Bowl should be a good game to watch. Oklahoma State has scored 41.2 points per game while Ole Miss led the SEC with 40.2 points per game and 514.8 yards of total offense