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Sugar Bowl Preview: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State, Start Time, TV Coverage, How to watch and more

Ole Miss looks to cap the 2015 season with a 10th win while Oklahoma State looks to bounce back after starting 10-0 before dropping their last two regular season games

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Sugar Bowl holds, for Ole Miss fans of a certain vintage, memories of the John Vaught era, which brought with it success that had not been seen before or since in Oxford. With eight appearances in an 18 year stretch, regular appearances in New Orleans were the norm and new coaches have pointed to a return to the bowl as a goal for the program. Until the recent resurgence of the program under Hugh Freeze, that notion always seemed laughable. The four-year turnaround by Freeze has led the Rebels back to the confines of a venue that the Ole Miss faithful would rather not wait another forty years for a return.

The Rebels will be facing what has become a familiar bowl opponent as the Oklahoma State Cowboys were Ole Miss' opponent in the 2004 and 2010 Cotton Bowls with Ole Miss emerging victorious in both games.


1A Legacy Game. Between the 1952 season and the 1969 season, Ole Miss played in eight Sugar Bowls. During that stretch, no other team played in the elder New Orleans bowl game more than LSU and Arkansas' four appearances. Outside of those eight visits, however, the Rebels have yet to grace the Sugar Bowl, but Friday night's game will tie Ole Miss with Florida and Georgia for third in all time appearances in the game. The 2016 game will be Oklahoma State's second time at the Sugar Bowl after winning the 1946 game of Saint Mary's of California.

2A Future NFL Matchup? Emmanuel Ogbah garnered the Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year award and was the 2014 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year. After picking up 13 sacks in 2015, the junior will be matching up against a fellow star in Ole Miss' left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Neither Tunsil or Ogbah has declared for the NFL draft yet, but both are expected to and are both generally projected as a first round pick with Tunsil typically projected among the top five picks of the draft. For NFL draftniks, the matchup against Tunsil could vault Ogbah towards the top of the first round with a strong performance or solidify Tunsil's projection as a top pick.

3What to Prepare For? After the regular season, Oklahoma State's starting quarterback Mason Rudolph had surgery to reportedly repair a foot fracture. Accordingly, his status has been up in the air for the bowl game. If Rudolph can not go or is limited, backup/platoon/short yardage specialist JW Walsh will shoulder the load. Walsh has started on and off throughout his Oklahoma State career, but has settled into a role this year where he has offered a change of pace from the pocket passer Rudolph. As a change of pace quarterback, Walsh has thrived with 11 rushing touchdowns and 13 passing scores (to one interception) to go along with about 950 total yards but he was less successful generally in a starting/feature role. If Rudolph is ineffective or limited, all the pressure will be on Walsh in his last game as a Cowboy and his productivity will go a long way towards the result.

Rashaun Woods catches a pass in the 2004 Cotton Bowl. Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images

4Replacing Nkemdiche. After Robert Nkemdiche's eventful December, he and brother Denzel are the only non-long term injured players missing the Sugar Bowl for Ole Miss and Robert has already declared himself for the NFL draft. The primary beneficiaries as far as playing time in Robert's stead look to be junior college transfer DJ Jones and redshirt freshman Breeland Speaks. In the game Nkemdiche missed against Texas A&M earlier in the 2015 season, Jones and Speaks combined for eight tackles and both will be looking to solidify their place in the defensive tackle rotation entering 2016.

5Louisiana Connections. While Ole Miss has generally recruited Louisiana reasonably well with players like John Fourcade, Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis, Mike Wallace and Cooper and Eli Manning, this year's roster has little in the way of Louisiana bred talent. Only four players come from the Pelican State with fourth string quarterback Jason Pellerin, freshman defensive tackle Garrald McDowell, grad transfer tight end Dillon Barrett and running back Eugene Brazley making up the numbers. By contrast, Oklahoma State has five players from Louisiana led by starting cornerback Michael Hunter and freshman wide receiver Jalen McCleskey.

Dexter McCluster in the 2010 Cotton Bowl. Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


After Ole Miss laid an egg (not the bowl) in last year's Peach Bowl, it was obvious the team was not focused on the game and that can always be the most difficult thing about projecting bowl game results. This year, the Rebel players have been saying the right things in interviews regarding preparation, but after the month of lauding and celebration that they have received from Ole Miss' fans, it would be easy to predict a similar type of performance from the Rebels this year. Even with the same type of performance, I think the game would be closer as the 2015 Oklahoma State squad is not nearly as talented as the 2014 TCU one and this year's Ole Miss team is better than last year's.

But in the end, I do not foresee that type of letdown happening. Much of the score outcome could depend on how much Rudolph plays and how effective he can be, so an actual score is difficult to pin down. Expect high scoring and an exciting game, and I'll go with Ole Miss by 10. Ole Miss 44, Oklahoma State 34