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The Big Sugar Bowl Preview

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Get ready for a shootout, yall.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Power Index (FPI) Ratings are courtesy of ESPN
All other statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders, home of the F/+ Combined Ratings for college football.
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) was created by Brian Fremeau; check out his website BCFToys for other goodies.
The S&P+ rating was created by Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.
Hat tips to Addicted to Quack's kalon and FO's 7th Day Adventure column for the inspiration.

So, what’s next?

The final New Year’s Six game of the 2015 bowl season pits the Ole Miss Rebels against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Sugar Bowl. The game will be played on Friday, January 1st, at 7:30 PM CST / 8:30 PM EST, and will be televised on ESPN and

The Résumé — Ole Miss

#12 - Ole Miss Rebels
Team F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
ALABAMA 64.5% (1) 28.7 (1) 0.285 (1) 25.5 (2) 36.3 (27) 7.6 (1)
LSU 35.1% (11) 17.1 (10) 0.147 (18) 19.0 (13) 38.9 (16) 21.9 (27)
ARKANSAS 34.1% (15) 14.9 (16) 0.160 (14) 16.2 (16) 43.5 (2) 28.6 (71)
FLORIDA 30.0% (20) 14.6 (17) 0.127 (29) 14.6 (24) 29.4 (61) 14.8 (5)
MISSISSIPPI ST. 28.6% (23) 13.2 (21) 0.128 (26) 15.1 (22) 37.6 (24) 24.4 (41)
MEMPHIS 25.5% (27) 9.7 (36) 0.144 (20) 9.0 (43) 38.2 (21) 28.6 (72)
TEXAS A&M 18.4% (37) 7.3 (44) 0.103 (31) 14.7 (23) 29.7 (58) 22.4 (30)
API 11.3% (49) 6.2 (51) 0.049 (50) 11.3 (32) 31.6 (47) 25.4 (50)
VANDERBILT -8.4% (83) -2.2 (82) -0.037 (80) 2.4 (70) 18.1 (116) 20.4 (19)
FRESNO STATE -33.6% (105) -10.2 (99) -0.184 (111) -16.1 (112) 20.9 (111) 31.1 (86)
NEW MEXICO ST. -43.3% (118) -15.8 (117) -0.205 (116) -18.5 (124) 25.6 (88) 41.4 (124)
AVERAGE 14.7% 7.6 0.065 8.5 31.8 24.2

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

  • Average F/+ Opponent: California (F/+ #44)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: California (S&P+ #41)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Arizona State (FEI #45)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Nebraska (FPI #45)
  • Average Offense: Washington (OS&P+ #46)
  • Average Defense: South Florida (DS&P+ #39)
  • Best Win: Alabama (F/+ #1)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 3 (Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State

The playoff field might have looked significantly different had it not been for the exploits of Arkansas’ Hunter Henry, as his heady flip on a 4th and 25 in overtime against the Rebels facilitated a touchdown two plays later; after a facemask penalty on a failed two-point conversion attempt extended the game one more play, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen waltzed into the end zone, Alabama waltzed into the SEC title game, and a once-promising season for the Rebels ended just short of the playoffs for a second year.[1]

1 | Getting whipped by Memphis probably gets them the Stanford treatment even if they’d beaten Florida for the title, however.

That being said, as far as F/+, S&P+, and FEI are concerned, the Rebels possess the best victory of any team this season, a 43-37 victory over the top-ranked Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa way back in September — one of three victories over the F/+ top-25 for the Rebels in 2015. Eight of their 11 FBS opponents occupy the F/+ top-50, which is how they achieved the third-toughest schedule of the New Year’s Six field with an average F/+ rating of 14.7%, nearest to F/+ #44 Cal’s ranking. The offensive slate was pretty solid, closest to the rating of OS&P+ #46 Washington, but the defensive slate was particularly nasty with an average DS&P+ rating most like South Florida’s at DS&P+ #39.

Similarity — Oklahoma State
  • Rushing Offense: Vanderbilt (Rush OS&P+ #106)
  • Passing Offense: Memphis (Pass OS&P+ #18)
  • Rushing Defense: LSU (Rush DS&P+ #50)
  • Passing Defense: Mississippi State (Pass DS&P+ #44, but not really)

Ole Miss has faced three of the nation’s 10 best passing defenses per S&P+, but they’ve not faced one quite like Oklahoma State’s, whose #32 rating in Pass DS&P+ falls right between Vanderbilt and Mississippi State at #21 and #44, respectively. Chad Kelly was more productive but less efficient against the Commodores, throwing for 321 yards at a 7.6 yards-per-attempt average, but with two interceptions and a middling 57.1% completion percentage. Against the Bulldogs, the completion percentage was better at 70%, but he threw for less yardage at a roughly comparable per-attempt average with 236 and 7.9, respectively. In terms of passer rating the Mississippi State performance was average for the season, as a lack of interceptions offset reduced production. On the former point, Kelly has not thrown a pick since the end of October, after throwing 13 in his first nine games at the helm. Ole Miss is not known for their rushing offense, but they get a potentially favorable matchup against the Cowboys, most similar to LSU’s somewhat disappointing group. Ole Miss had an average output against the Tigers, piling up 152 yards on 31 carries for a 4.9 yards-per-carry average.

There are some big reasons to expect a less-than-optimal output from the Ole Miss defense in this one,[2] but at least on the ground they aren’t going to have too difficult a task in front of them. Oklahoma State’s run game is rated most similarly to Vanderbilt’s #106 unit; in their game against the Rebels, Vanderbilt was able to get 125 yards but it took 41 carries, which is a putrid 3.1 yards a carry. Memphis was significantly more successful through the air against the Rebels, as Paxton Lynch went 39 of 54 for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns, good for a completion percentage of 72.2% and an average of 7.1 yards-per-attempt. Efficient passing was the best way to beat Ole Miss this season, as the opposing quarterback eclipsed a passer rating of 145 in all three losses, the only times that occurred this season.

2 | More on this in a bit.

The Résumé — Oklahoma State

#16 - Oklahoma State Cowboys
Team F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
OKLAHOMA 55.7% (3) 24.6 (3) 0.249 (3) 27.8 (1) 43.4 (3) 18.7 (12)
BAYLOR 35.0% (12) 15.8 (14) 0.159 (15) 22.1 (4) 43.0 (4) 27.2 (60)
TCU 32.7% (16) 12.8 (23) 0.175 (10) 21.0 (7) 39.5 (13) 26.6 (56)
WEST VIRGINIA 23.8% (31) 14.4 (18) 0.079 (38) 15.2 (21) 34.7 (29) 20.3 (18)
TEXAS TECH 12.1% (47) 6.0 (55) 0.058 (47) 10.4 (35) 44.8 (1) 38.8 (118)
CENT. MICHIGAN 1.2% (68) 0.4 (75) 0.022 (61) -1.5 (85) 27.4 (80) 27.1 (59)
TEXAS 0.4% (69) 1.0 (70) 0.007 (65) 7.3 (50) 28.8 (67) 27.7 (67)
IOWA STATE -3.6% (73) 2.0 (68) -0.041 (82) 1.2 (79) 29.5 (60) 27.5 (64)
KANSAS STATE -4.3% (77) -1.4 (80) -0.010 (72) 6.3 (52) 27.9 (75) 29.3 (75)
UTSA -36.8% (108) -14.2 (113) -0.162 (108) -16.5 (114) 20.2 (113) 34.4 (102)
KANSAS -55.7% (125) -21.5 (123) -0.254 (127) -18.3 (122) 18.9 (115) 40.4 (121)
AVERAGE 5.5% 3.6 0.026 6.8 32.6 28.9

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

  • Average F/+ Opponent: Georgia Southern (F/+ #63)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: Indiana (S&P+ #62)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Penn State (FEI #60)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Penn State (FPI #51)
  • Average Offense: Toledo (OS&P+ #44)
  • Average Defense: East Carolina (DS&P+ #73)
  • Best Win: TCU (F/+ #16)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 1 (TCU)

The Cowboys were headed directly for the playoffs before the Big 12s crazy-backloaded schedule kicked in and ruined their season. Oklahoma State was in prime position at the start of November, with their games against the other heavies in the conference — TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma — all in Stillwater. They passed the first hurdle with a 49-29 victory over TCU, but after barely surviving Iowa State in Ames the following week,[3] they dropped their final two games of the season to Baylor and Oklahoma.

3 | “Survived” is appropriate — based on their play, they had just a 38% win probability according to Bill C.

Looking at the rest of their schedule it appears they might have been a bit of a paper tiger heading into that month, as they were undefeated but against the dregs of the conference. Their non-conference slate consisted of an FCS school, UT-San Antonio, and Central Michigan — not exactly murderer’s row. The end result was a schedule far inferior to Oklahoma’s, with an average F/+ rating most similar to F/+ $63 Georgia Southern. The offensive slate was of similar strength to most of the New Year’s Six, with an average rating closest to Toledo’s #44 mark in OS&P+, but the defensive slate was abysmal, way down at DS&P+ #73 East Carolina.

Similarity — Ole Miss
  • Rushing Offense: Oklahoma (Rush OS&P+ #18)
  • Passing Offense: Baylor (Pass OS&P+ #6)
  • Rushing Defense: Baylor (Rush DS&P+ #8, but not really)
  • Passing Defense: Baylor (Pass DS&P+ #34)

Much like the Rebels with respect to passing defenses, the Cowboys have faced three of the nation’s top 10 rushing defenses, but not one quite the like the Rebels’ #18 ranked unit per S&P+. That ranking slots in between Baylor and TCU among Oklahoma State’s opponents; neither are particularly favorable comparisons, as the Cowboys managed 8 and 81 rushing yards, respectively. Baylor was also the closest comp on passing defense, and that comparison is a bit better for Cowboys fans: Mason Rudolph was just 27 for 50 (54%), but those 27 completions went for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns, which was still good enough for a 8.6 yards-per-completion average.

That’s where the good news, ends, however, as the Cowboys defense was absolutely lit up by the closest comps to the Ole Miss offense. Oklahoma’s three-headed rushing monster dropped a cool 344 yards and five touchdowns on Oklahoma State, an absurd 8.2 yards per carry average. With Baylor’s passing offense came more death by the big play, as Jarrett Stidham and Chris Johnson combined to go 17 of 31 for 396 yards, a 12.8 yards-per-attempt average. If the Ole Miss offense that terrorized the SEC West all year shows up, expect a lot of production on this defense.

The Goods

Overall Quality
F/+ 43.1% (7) F/+ 24.9% (29) OLE MISS
FPI 22.1 (5) FPI 15.9 (17) OLE MISS
FEI 0.188 (8) FEI 0.112 (30) OLE MISS
S&P+ 19.8 (7) S&P+ 11.7 (26) OLE MISS
Home Spread -7.0 OLE MISS

The Matchup on Offense
OFEI 0.81 (10) DFEI 0.22 (49) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 40.6 (11) DS&P+ 27.1 (58) OLE MISS
Rush OS&P+ 113.7 (23) Rush DS&P+ 105.4 (48) OLE MISS
Pass OS&P+ 146.2 (2) Pass DS&P+ 110.4 (32) OLE MISS
SD OS&P+ 129.9 (1) SD DS&P+ 107.1 (39) OLE MISS
PD OS&P+ 135.0 (9) PD DS&P+ 112.7 (30) OLE MISS
OALY 108.7 (35) DALY 106.3 (41) PUSH
OASR 155.5 (27) DASR 132.6 (23) PUSH

The Matchup on Defense
DFEI 0.4 (37) OFEI 0.58 (24) OKLAHOMA STATE
DS&P+ 20.8 (23) OS&P+ 38.8 (18) PUSH
Rush DS&P+ 118.1 (18) Rush OS&P+ 85.8 (114) OLE MISS
Pass DS&P+ 110.8 (30) Pass OS&P+ 124.6 (15) OKLAHOMA STATE
SD DS&P+ 113.8 (24) SD OS&P+ 97.2 (87) OLE MISS
PD DS&P+ 107.8 (44) PD OS&P+ 137.7 (7) OKLAHOMA STATE
DALY 110.9 (30) OALY 77.7 (126) OLE MISS
DASR 98.8 (64) OASR 116.4 (44) OKLAHOMA STATE

The Matchup on Special Teams
FVE 0.00 (69) FVE 0.07 (33) PUSH
STE -0.04 (101) STE 0.05 (30) OKLAHOMA STATE
FGE 0.05 (68) FGE 0.12 (56) OKLAHOMA STATE
KE -0.2 (2) KRE 0.04 (47) OLE MISS
PE -0.1 (27) PRE 0.16 (16) OKLAHOMA STATE
PRE -0.36 (128) PE -0.05 (41) OKLAHOMA STATE
KRE -0.2 (127) KE 0.06 (90) OKLAHOMA STATE

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of December 30th, 2015.

Wondering what all these terms are?

Overall Quality

F/+: The F/+ combined ratings combine FEI and S&P+ into one metric that serves as Football Outsiders' official rankings for college football. For a more detailed discussion of F/+, check out this section of the PTN Football Primer.

FPI: The Football Power Index, an overall team quality metric produced by ESPN. Presented as a scoring margin, FPI weights factors such as offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiencies, as well as turnovers and big plays, and also includes opponent adjustments.

FEI: The Fremeau Efficiency Index, an overall team quality metric that is drive-based and opponent-adjusted. For a more detailed discussion of FEI, check out this section of the PTN Football Primer.

S&P+: Another overall quality metric constructed primarily from a play-by-play perspective, the S&P+ rating underwent big changes prior to the 2015 season. Check out the primer article for more details.

Offensive Metrics

Off. F/+: The offensive component of F/+.

OFEI: The offensive component of FEI.

OS&P+: The offensive component of S&P+.

Rush OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at running the ball.

Pass OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at throwing the ball.

PD: Passing Downs, defined as later downs with medium yardage or more to go (3rd, 4th downs in excess of 5 yards to go), as well as 2nd down with more than 8 yards to go.

SD: Standard Downs, defined as all downs that are not Passing Downs.

SD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.

PD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.

Defensive Metrics

Def. F/+: The defensive component of F/+.

DFEI: The defensive component of FEI.

DS&P+: The defensive component of S&P+.

Rush DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at stopping the run.

Pass DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at defending the pass.

SD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.

PD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.

Special Teams Metrics

FVE: FEI Field Value Efficiency, a measure of how much field position value a team earned against its opponents.

Fremeau Special Teams Efficiency Components - The special teams component of F/+ is based on Brian Fremeau’s Special Teams Efficiency, which is made up of the following five components of special teams play (per FootballOutsiders):
FGEField Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
PREPunt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KREKickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
PEPunt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KEKickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.

Line-Specific Metrics

ASRAdjusted Sack Rate, which is a version of sack rate (defined as sacks / [sacks + passing attempts] ) that has been opponent-adjusted. The metric is scaled based on an average rate of 100; the higher the rate the better. ASR is calculated for both the offense (OASR) and defense (DASR).

ALYAdjusted Line Yards, which is a measure of success in the running game specific to the line. This is accomplished by taking each carry by running backs only and weighting the yardage as follows:

  • Runs for a loss are weighted 120%.
  • Runs for 0-4 yards are unweighted.
  • Runs for 5-10 yards are weighted 50%.
  • Runs for 11 or more yards are not included.

After the weighting process, the runs are further adjusted for game situation and opponent, and then averaged out per carry, resulting in adjusted line yards — a more detailed explanation of the entire process is available here. ALY is calculated for both the offensive line (OASR) and the defensive front seven (DASR).

The Swanson Giddiness Index

Easily the most accurate predictor of success in college football, the Swanson Giddiness Index is a qualitative, completely unsupportable metric that is presented via the tone of that week's image/animated gif of Ron Swanson — beloved Parks and Recreation character and official spirit animal of Processing the Numbers.

Wondering what all of this means? Check out the PTN Primer!

For even more advanced statistics goodness, check out the Advanced Stats Profile Index, the Ole Miss Profile, and the Oklahoma State Profile.

So, what do we know?

Overall Quality

Ole Miss is a good test case for the value of advanced metrics over simple win-loss records, as at 9-3 they rank ahead of several one and two loss teams on the strength of their schedule and performances this year. They are a consensus top-10 team, with FPI the highest on them with the #5 ranking in the country, ahead of playoff participants Clemson and Michigan State. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is not nearly as well-regarded, and as a result Ole Miss has a significant edge in all four overall quality metrics. Vegas agrees, as they’ve deemed the Rebels a touchdown favorite heading into the game.

When Ole Miss Has the Ball

A near shutout for the Rebels, as they have significant edges in all categories save the line stats, where they are slightly ahead in Adjusted Line Yards and slightly behind in Adjusted Sack Rate. The biggest edges, however, come on passing and on standard downs; you can assume those are related as only ten teams passed more often than the Rebels on standard downs this season. Ole Miss’ personnel has been oft-discussed both in this space and in Advanced Stats Rundown, but for the sake of completeness let’s run down the unending splendor of their passing offense just one last time.

The triggerman, of course, is sort of Clemson transfer, sort of football royalty Chad Kelly, who had a heck of a year as the starting quarterback in Oxford. Originally recruited to Clemson, Jim Kelly’s nephew busted down to the JUCO ranks after some conduct issues ended his tenure with the Tigers. After a successful year at East Mississippi Community College that culminated in the NJCAA National Championship, the highly sought-after Kelly found his way to Ole Miss and the rest is history.[4] Kelly ended up with 3740 yards on 425 attempts this season, good for a solid 8.8 yards an attempt — not too bad for a debut.

4 | If that sounds Newtonesque to you, it’s not! Not only were there no Heismans, he also made it to the Mississippi school instead of being bought by API.

That production was greatly helped along by a fleet of matchup nightmares at wide receiver, a group full of guys 6’2” or taller who can run. The most well-known of them is Laquon Treadwell, perhaps the country’s most talented receiver if not its most prolific one. If it’s not him, it’s the quicker Cody Core; if it’s not him, it’s the taller Quincy Adeboyejo; if it’s not him, it’s the larger Damore’ea Stringfellow — you get the picture. The Rebels also feature an elite athlete at tight end in Evan Engram, who should be the worst matchup of all if not for his propensity to get lost in the offensive shuffle from time to time.

The only name among the runners — again, not remotely the focus of this offense — to remember is Jaylen Walton, who lead the Rebels in yards and carries with 134 and 690, respectively. Kelly is really the primary runner, however, particularly in the red zone as he’s accounted for 10 TDs on the ground this season in just 82 carries. Walton is a classic scatback, way undersized at 5’8” and just 172 pounds, but he is very fast and a perfect complement to the far larger Kelly and fellow, lesser-used backs Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins. The Rebels do not run very often, but they’ve been quite efficient at it when they have this season, as evidenced by the top-10 Rush OS&P+ rating.

As stated above, the only area on this side of the ball where the Cowboys have an advantage is in Adjusted Sack Rate, but even that’s not significant. Kelly’s scrambling ability has helped keep his jersey clean this season, as he’s only taken 16 sacks against 425 passing attempts, which translates to the #23 rating in the country in OASR. However, on the other side is end Emmanuel Ogbah, who followed up an 11 sack year in 2014 with a 13 sack one in 2015, good enough to lead the Big 12 and slot in at fourth place nationally. Look for fun battles between Ogbah and highly-regarded offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil; also look for Tunsil to win those battles, as Ole Miss more or less stopped allowing sacks when he was reinstated. He personally shut down Myles Garrett in the Rebels’ game against Texas A&M, which showed his ability to handle elite pass rushers one-on-one. Also look for an upright Kelly to light up the Cowboys’ defense, as there’s nothing here to suggest they can stop the Rebels in this game.

When Oklahoma State Has the Ball

We will not bother talking about the Oklahoma State run game; it is non-existent, and even accounting for various absences among the Rebels starters, it’s just not worth discussing. Ole Miss had one of the better run defenses in the SEC this season; Oklahoma State is one of the 15 worst rushing offenses in college football. Case closed.[5]

5 | They also rarely run the ball — 103rd and 110th in standard downs and passing downs run rates, respectively.

Instead, Oklahoma State’s chances in this game rest on their ability to keep pace with the Ole Miss offense, and that comes down to Rudolph and the passing game. Rudolph has had an even better year than Kelly has on a per-attempt basis, gaining 3591 yards in 393 attempts for a 9.1 yards-per-attempt average. He’s taken almost twice as many sacks in fewer attempts, however, which accounts for how much lower Oklahoma State’s OASR rating is.

Rudolph spreads it around quite a bit, as eight different Cowboys have received at least 20 targets on the year. The two players who top that particular chart are sophomore receiver James Washington and senior receiver David Glidden. Both are big play receivers averaging over 15 yards a reception, with the smaller, lighter Glidden acting as more of a shifty, slot-type receiver and Washington being the outside burner. Washington in particular is someone to keep an eye on, as Ole Miss’ cornerbacks are good but not quite as stingy as they were a year ago.

One other quirky thing to note here is the tremendous difference between Oklahoma State’s performance on standard and passing downs. Much like fellow New Year’s Six participant Michigan State, they are thoroughly below average on standard downs at #87 overall in SD OS&P+. However, they are absolutely lethal on passing downs, with a rating even higher than that of Ole Miss at #7 overall in PD OS&P+. Those sorts of offenses are very dangerous, as “staying on schedule” and “avoiding third-and-long” no longer apply. You play for fourth down, and hope it’s a long enough distance to go that they decide to punt.

Special Teams

The one area where the Cowboys have a decided advantage on Ole Miss is field position and on special teams, as they have a 36 rank advantage in FEI’s Field Value Efficiency metric and a whopping 71 rank advantage in FEI’s Special Teams Efficiency metric. Most of that stems from Ole Miss being the very worst team in FBS at returning punts and kicks, with a #128 ranking in punt return efficiency and a #127 ranking in kick return efficiency. They have much better specialists and coverage units, however, with the #2 unit on kick coverage[6] and the #27 unit on punt coverage; the former is the one area they have the advantage on Oklahoma State. Field goals are close to being a wash, but expect Oklahoma State’s offense to start with shorter fields and Ole Miss’ to be stuck in a hole from the get-go.

6 | No doubt buoyed by Alabama’s meltdown on that front back in September.

Any intangibles to consider?

The Sugar Bowl comes to you from New Orleans’ Superdome, so weather is a non-factor. These two teams are not historically powers in their respective conferences,[7] and have only met recently in bowl games — the 2004 and 2010 Cotton Bowls, both won by the Rebels.

7 | Outside of the Johnny Vaught era in Oxford, of course.

Oklahoma State enters the game relatively healthy, with only rotational defensive end Jimmy Bean out for the game with a leg injury. Ole Miss, on the other hand, has seen their defense absolutely gutted by a variety of maladies. First there was the departure of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche from the team, ostensibly related to his pair of hospitalizations for undisclosed reasons over the past month or so. His brother, the highly-regarded Robert Nkemdiche, has been suspended for the bowl game after a marijuana arrest and has already declared for the NFL draft. Safety Tony Conner will miss the game with a knee injury, and defensive end Fadol Brown with a foot injury. That’s four starters gone from the unit that made life miserable for the SEC West this season, which is a bad deal heading into a shootout-type situation with the Cowboys.

The Picks

Even with the defensive losses to Ole Miss, there’s again nothing here to suggest Oklahoma State can stop their offense, and while this may end up becoming a shootout that decidedly favors the Rebels.

STRAIGHT UP:      Ole Miss Rebels