After arriving in New Orleans earlier this week, the Ole Miss football team is shaping up to take on the Baylor Bears on New Year’s Day.
Ole Miss delayed their arrival into the Big Easy to ensure proper safety measures and extend their time in Oxford.
“Picture a week of walking around Bourbon Street and everything. I don’t think that’s really up there high on COVID protocol,” Coach Lane Kiffin said. “So we stayed as long as they would let us, actually, because of that. It’s easier to monitor kids, have them here where they are used to.”
The Rebels enter this highly-anticipated Sugar Bowl with their best regular season record under their belt. With their 31-21 victory in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss finished out at 10-2 in Coach Kiffin’s second season at the helm.
Kiffin’s leadership and enthusiasm for his players has proved to be an essential factor in the success of this program. Along with bowl season comes numerous players opting out of their designated final games to ensure their health and safety for the NFL Draft. However, many football fans have called upon these college stars to stay loyal to their teammates and finish out their season. In the Sugar Bowl, Ole Miss will not have a single player opting out, including quarterback Matt Corral.
“I think it’s awesome. We didn’t have a conversation. It’s not like someone came in wavering and we had to talk them out of it, or go over the pros and cons,” Kiffin said. “I think it says a lot about this team. It shows the culture that’s been created here and the improvement from year one to two year, also, when you look at that. It takes a while for your culture to set in. So that was really cool to see, to not have to deal with that.”
In the last year, the Ole Miss defense has undergone one of the best improvements in college football, allowing more than 13 fewer points than the previous season. AJ Finley, Chance Campbell and Sam Williams will have to continue their defensive prowess against the Bears, who come in as the Big 12 Champions. In their 21-16 victory in the Big 12 Championship, the Bears found the back of the endzone three times and secured the win with a huge defensive stop on fourth down against then No. 5 Oklahoma State.
Under the direction of DJ Durkin, the Landshark defense will have to shut down the Baylor run game early and slow quarterback Gerry Bohanon in his first game back from injury. In 11 games this season, Bohanon was sacked nine times, something Williams is all too familiar with, wrapping up the opposing quarterback 12.5 times this season.
In his final game as a Rebel, Matt Corral will look to have a career game before the NFL Draft and lead his team to a New Year’s Six Bowl victory.
Ole Miss will face off against Baylor on Jan. 1, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. CST on ESPN.