Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, LA
Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State
Friday, January 1, 5:30 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: Ole Miss -6.5 O/U 66
CRIS Current: Ole Miss -7 O/U 68
Recommendation: Ole Miss
The Ole Miss Rebels were a complete and utter no show in last year’s Peach Bowl as TCU rolled them up 42-3. Many of the quotes out of Oxford are of wanting to atone for such a brutal effort.
Hugh Freeze: “I didn’t like the way that last year went, obviously. I’m going to make sure our kids, every single day, hear that from me. And if they really want to be great, then we’ve got to compete in these types of games...I think we are playing at a high level offensively, and we can’t let this spell of being off [get to us]. We’ve got to attack it.” RB Jaylen Walton: “We've been preaching that the casinos and women are going to be here, New Orleans is going to be here 10 years from now, but this opportunity only comes once in a lifetime. We've been working hard and preaching every day that we do the right thing. Even if it's going out or staying in let's make sure the one thing we have on our mind is winning the Sugar Bowl.” TE Evan Engram: “We're not dwelling on last year, but it's definitely in the back of our minds. It was an embarrassment last year. We're making smart decisions. We're making sure guys are on curfew. We still get breathing room and have fun, but there's not a meeting that goes by where the coaches don't express how important it is to be locked in."
It doesn’t take much to get motivated to play a primetime January 1 bowl game but I think last year’s disaster for Ole Miss provides an even extra incentive for a strong showing. I do not want to sell Oklahoma State short, however, as it had another great season under the guidance of their still underrated head coach Mike Gundy. But despite being undefeated heading into mid-November, the Pokes no doubt had a lot of things bounce their way. For starters, in games decided by a touchdown or less, they were a perfect 4-0. They were also +13 in turnover margin including +4 against TCU; a game OSU was outgained 663-456. They really showed vulnerability their last three games of the season as they barely slipped past Iowa State and were outclassed by Baylor and Oklahoma at home. In those three contests (0-3 ATS), OSU was outgained by over a yard per play. All told, the Cowboys finished second in the Big XII at 7-2 but 5th in total offense and 6th in total defense vs. league foes. Ole Miss meanwhile posted an impressive +1.08 ypp advantage in SEC play. To put that in perspective, Alabama checked in at +0.92 ypp.
Ole Miss’ defense will be without NFL bound DT Robert Nkemdiche due to suspension but they have depth including Breeland Speaks who filled in well against Texas A&M which was Nkemdiche’s lone previous absence this season. Even with the loss I still feel that the Rebels can control both sides of the line of scrimmage. Not much of a bargain at -7/-7.5 but the fundamentals and motivation point towards the favorite here.