The Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) will take on No. 12 Ole Miss (9-3) in the AllState Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Its third meeting in bowl games for these two teams in the last 12 years, with the Rebels winning the past two meetings.
The Biggest storyline for the Cowboys going in to the game is an obvious one, will Mason Rudolph play?
It was reported after his surgery on a fracture in his foot that a New Year’s bowl return could be possible. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy told the Tulsa World that he expects Rudolph to be healthy for the bowl game.
Talking to sources around the program they all seem to agree that Rudolph will play, so for this preview let’s assume he will suit up. Not to knock J.W. Walsh, but obviously that helps the Cowboys enormously and gives Ole Miss a lot more to prepare for.
Another thing for sure is that the Cowboys face a daunting task in Ole Miss. The Rebels have three first round NFL prospects with OT Laremy Tunsil, WR Laquon Treadwell, and DT Robert Nkemdiche. But, after Sunday’s report that Nkemdiche fell four stories at an Atlanta area hotel, it’s fair to wonder what his status will be for the Sugar Bowl. He’s a projected top ten pick in next spring’s draft.
While no one wants to ever see a player get hurt like this, it’s only fair to admit that if Nkemdiche can’t play, Oklahoma State has a better chance to win the game. Ole Miss is also the only team this season so far that has been able to beat Alabama. While they have been inconsistent at times, they are loaded with talent and have more than Oklahoma State.
The biggest problem the Rebels pose for the Cowboys is in the trenches. Oklahoma State has struggled on the offensive line throughout the season and having to deal with Nkemdiche (if he plays) and the Ole Miss defensive front is going to be a huge test. We saw how much trouble the Oklahoma State o-line had down the stretch of the season against quality front sevens like Baylor and Oklahoma. It wasn’t pretty. If Rudolph does play, will the Cowboys be able to keep him upright and will they be able to form any kind of a running attack? I have serious doubts.
Traditional Big 12 and SEC thinking might suggest that Oklahoma State would be best suited to get this game into a shootout, but Ole Miss isn’t a traditional, slow, SEC team. In fact the Rebels have averaged over 40 points per game this season and have averaged over 500 yards of offense per game this season.
Also, don’t forget that Ole Miss had one of the most disappointing performances of last year’s bowl season, getting crushed by TCU 42-3 in the Chick-Fil-A bowl. It could very well be the last game for up to 16 players on the Rebels, including Treadwell, Tunsil and others. How do they want to go out and be remembered by those loyal fans in Oxford?
Ultimately I think Ole Miss just has too much talent and has the edge in experience as well. Still this is a great opportunity for the Cowboys to gain some more experience against a quality opponent and launch them into what should be a really good season in 2016 for a team that returns a ton of talent.
Prediction: Ole Miss 45 Oklahoma State 38
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