Ole Miss Football Bowl Guide/Notes: Sugar Bowl

Published 10:48 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• Ole Miss is making its second straight bowl appearance under Lane Kiffin.
• The Rebels rank 21st all-time among Division I teams with 39 bowl appearances.
• Ole Miss is 12-2 in its last 14 bowl games on the field dating back to the 1992 Liberty Bowl.
• The Rebels are one of four SEC schools and 16 nationally to make a New Year’s Six bowl game in three or more years since its inception in 2015.
• Ole Miss and Baylor are meeting for just the second time on the football field.
• Baylor won the lone meeting between the two schools with a 20-10 victory, in 1975, in Waco, Texas.
• Ole Miss ranks as the fourth most-improved defense in the FBS, allowing 13.3 less points this season compared to 2020.
• Ole Miss is the only team in the nation with four players with 500 or more rushing yards this season.
• Ole Miss ranks sixth nationally with 3.3 sacks per game.
• Ole Miss’ 39 sacks this year are the second-most in program history, just two shy of the school record (41) set in 1999.
• QB Matt Corral ranks top 20 nationally in eight different categories: total offense (328.0), passing yards (3,339), passing yards per game (278.2), completion percentage (.684), yards per pass attempt (8.8), completions per game (21.7), passing efficiency (157.5) and points responsible for (188).
• Corral is one of only four FBS QBs with at least 20 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing TDs.
• WR Braylon Sanders leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in yards per reception (22.3).
• WR Dontario Drummond needs 76 more receiving yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
• DL Sam Williams has a school record 12.5 sacks on the season … He’s ranked fourth in the FBS in sacks.
• LB Chance Campbell is fourth in the SEC with 8.4 tackles per game.

OLE MISS HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN
Lane Kiffin (Fresno State, 1998) is in his second season at Ole Miss and helped lead the Rebels to their first 10-win regular season in program history. Kiffin’s second year in Oxford was once again highlighted by one of college football’s most exciting offenses. For the second straight season, the Rebels lead the SEC in total offense at over 500 yards per game heading into bowl season. Ole Miss has eclipsed 600 yards of total offense seven times under Kiffin after hitting that mark just 16 times in the program’s history before his arrival. However, in year two, Kiffin proved he isn’t just a one-dimensional coach. The Rebel defense ranks as one of the top-five most-improved units in the FBS, allowing 13.3 fewer points per game this season compared to 2020. Kiffin is in his 10th year at the NCAA level and has posted an all-time record of 76-41. In December 2016, Kiffin took over an FAU program that had won a total of nine combined games over the previous three seasons. Kiffin proceeded to take the Owls to new heights over the last three years, including two conference titles and two 10-win seasons. In his head coaching stops at USC, Tennessee and FAU, Kiffin has shown a propensity in helping turn programs around. Kiffin graduated from Fresno State in 1998 after playing quarterback for three seasons (1994-96) for the Bulldogs.

BAYLOR HEAD COACH DAVE ARANDA
A 2020 National Champion and 25-year coaching veteran, Dave Aranda was named the 28th head coach in Baylor Football history on Jan. 16, 2020. After a COVID-affected 2-7 debut season a year ago, Aranda led the Bears to their third Big 12 title in program history, a program-record-tying 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance. In just his second season in Waco, Aranda was also named Big 12 Coach of the Year and is a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Awards. Widely considered one of the top defensive minds in all of football, Aranda came to Baylor after four seasons as associate head coach and defensive coordinator at LSU, including a 2020 National Championship and a 2019 SEC Championship. In six seasons as a defensive coordinator at Power 5 schools, Aranda’s defenses ranked in the Top 12 nationally in total yards five times. His defenses also ranked among the top 10 in scoring four of his final seven years. Prior to joining LSU, Aranda served as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin (2013-15), defensive coordinator at Utah State (2012) and defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Hawaii (2008-11).

BAYLOR SCOUTING REPORT
After knocking off No. 7 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game, Baylor punched its ticket to its second Sugar Bowl appearance in the last three seasons. The Bears are looking for their first 12-win season in program history. This season, Baylor is 4-1 against top-25 teams, including wins over BYU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Led by head coach Dave Aranda, Baylor boasts one of the most balanced offenses in the country, averaging 214.7 yards rushing and 216.0 yards passing per game. Gerry Bohanon commanded the Bears’ offense, throwing for 2,165 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021, but the signal-caller went down in week 12 with a leg injury. Redshirt freshman Blake Shapen led Baylor in the final three games of the season, passing for 571 yards and five scores down the stretch. Abram Smith has been the workhorse back, ranking eighth nationally with 1,429 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns this season. Trestan Ebner has also seen time in the backfield and out wide, recording over 1,685 all-purpose yards through 13 games. Receiver Tyquan Thornton is just shy of the 1,000-yard mark with 946 yards and nine scores this season. Defensively, Baylor led the Big 12 with 16 interceptions and ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 19.2 points per game. Consensus All-American Jalen Pitre leads the defense with 70 total tackles, including a team-high 14 for loss.

TEXAS REBELS
The Ole Miss roster features eight players who hail from Texas: DB Miles Battle (Houston), OL Erick Cade (Denton), WR JJ Henry (McKinney), DL Isaiah Iton (Houston), DB Jaylon Jones (Allen), WR Jalen Knox (Arlington), OL Cedric Melton (Houston), LB MoMo Sanogo (Plano).

OLE MISS’ BOWL HISTORY
The 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl will be Ole Miss’ 39th bowl appearance in program history. The Rebels’ all-time bowl record stands at 24-13, excluding the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl victory that was vacated due to NCAA ruling. The Rebels lead the NCAA in bowl win percentage at .649. Elsewhere in the bowl record book, Ole Miss is 14th nationally in bowl wins and 20th in bowl appearances.

RECENT BOWL SUCCESS
• Ole Miss is 12-2 on the field in its last 14 bowl games dating back to a 13-0 win over Air Force in the 1992 Liberty Bowl.
• The Rebels had a streak of six straight bowl wins snapped at the 2014 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with a loss to TCU.
• Ole Miss’ only other loss in the last 13 came during the 2000 Music City Bowl, falling 49-38 to West Virginia.

HOW SWEET IT IS: REBELS RETURN TO ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
This will mark Ole Miss’ 10th appearance in the Sugar Bowl, the fourth-most among all college football programs. Only Alabama, LSU and Georgia have made it to the famed New Orleans destination more times than Ole Miss. This is the Rebels’ first Sugar Bowl appearance since 2016 when Ole Miss defeated No 16 Oklahoma State, 48-20. Ole Miss made eight appearances from 1953-70, winning five of them. The Rebels will take on a current Big 12 opponent for the 15th time in their bowl history and the third time overall in the Sugar Bowl. Besides the 2016 Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State, the Rebels defeated Texas, 39-7, in the 1958 Sugar Bowl.

REBELS VERSUS BIG 12 OPPONENTS
• Ole Miss has a 15-12 record against current members of the Big 12 Conference.
• The Rebels will take on a current Big 12 opponent for the 15th time in their bowl history … Ole Miss is 10-4 in such games.
• The Rebels are 2-0 against Big 12 teams in the Sugar Bowl (Oklahoma State, 2016 & Texas, 1958).
• The Rebels’ last game against a Big 12 team was a 47-27 victory over Texas Tech in the 2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff.

YEAR OF THE KIFFIN
Head coach Lane Kiffin is a finalist for the American Heart Association’s Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, as well as a semifinalist for the George Munger College Coach of the Year Award. Kiffin, who helped lead the Rebels to their first 10-win regular season in program history, owns a 15-7 record in his two seasons in Oxford. Kiffin’s second year in Oxford was once again highlighted by one of college football’s most exciting offenses. For the second straight season, the Rebels lead the SEC in total offense at over 500 yards per game heading into bowl season. Ole Miss has eclipsed 600 yards of total offense 19 times under Kiffin after hitting that mark just 16 times in the program’s history before his arrival. However, in year two, Kiffin proved he isn’t just a one-dimensional coach. The Rebel defense ranks as one of the top-five most-improved units in the FBS, allowing 13.3 fewer points per game this season compared to 2020.

 

PICK YOUR POISON
Ole Miss is the only team in the nation with four players with 500 or more rushing yards this season (Jerrion Ealy [703yds], Snoop Conner [605yds]), Matt Corral [597yds] and Henry Parrish Jr. [542yds]. The foursome has combined for seven 100-yard rushing performances this season.

WILLIAMS GARNERS ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Coming off a dominating 2021 regular season, DL Sam Williams earned All-America honors from four different publications prior to the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl appearance. Williams garned accolades from the Walter Camp (second team), Sporting News All-American (second team), Associated Press (third team) and Phil Steele (fourth team). Williams has a school record 12.5 sacks on the season, which ranks fourth in the FBS. His 56 total tackles are the most by a Rebel defensive lineman since 2018. Williams leads the Rebels in both tackles for loss (15.0) and forced fumbles (4).

TOP 25 CLASS
Ole Miss finished the early portion of the 2022 National Signing Day with a top 25 class, highlighted by numerous impact players on the defensive side of the ball. The Rebels signed 16 players, including five with a four-star rating. Ole Miss is No. 24 in the 247Sports composite rankings.

MAC BROWN RAISES OVER 145K FOR ALS RESEARCH
When he was in seventh grade, Ole Miss punter Mac Brown had a modest goal of raising $500 for a childhood friend’s   dad who had been diagnosed with ALS. Along with a group of neighborhood friends, Brown started a lemonade stand, Awesome Lemonade Stand, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to help his friend’s family. Ten years later, that $500 goal has ballooned to over $145,000 raised by Brown and his friends for ALS research. Brown is one of 22 collegiate football players named to the 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He is also a member of the 2021 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team.

MULTIPLE REBELS EARN ALL-SEC ACCOLADES
Following their first 10-win regular season in program history, several Rebels hauled in all-conference honors for their performances in 2021. Senior Sam Williams earned first team honors on the defensive line, while QB Matt Corral and RB Jerrion Ealy hauled in second team accolades. Ole Miss offensive lineman Eli Acker and defensive back Tysheem Johnson were both named Freshman All-SEC.

SHOUTOUT TO SHUTOUTS
The Ole Miss defense has tallied four shutout halves this year (Louisville [first half], Tulane [second half], Liberty [first half] and Texas A&M [first half]). Prior to this season, Ole Miss had only played three shutout halves in the previous five seasons, spanning 58 games. The four shutouts are the most in a single season since the Rebels tallied five such occurrences in 2014.

LEAVING HIS MARK
Mark Robinson transferred to Ole Miss as a walk-on running back from Southeast Missouri, but the Leesburg, Georgia, native made the switch to the defensive side of the ball at the end of fall camp last season. Robinson, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, ranks second on the team and No. 15 in the SEC with 7.2 tackles per game. Robinson has tallied at least eight total tackles in half of Ole Miss’ games this season. He set career highs in total tackles (14), solo stops (12), tackles for loss (5) and sacks (2) in Ole Miss’ win at Tennessee. Robinson’s 5.0 tackles for loss against the Vols were the most by a Rebel since Kendrick Clancy had 6.0 against Auburn in 1999.

TWO-HEADED MONSTER
RB Snoop Conner ranks third in the SEC with 13 rushing touchdowns, while QB Matt Corral is fifth at 11 TDs. They are the first Rebel teammates ever to tally 10 or more rushing touchdowns in the same season. The 11 rushing TDs are the third-most ever by a Rebel quarterback in a single season. Conner currently ranks third on Ole Miss’ career charts with 26 career rushing touchdowns.

REBS IN THE POLLS
• Ole Miss ranks No. 8 in all three major polls headed into the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
• The No. 8 spot in the polls are the Rebels’ best ranking since starting the 2015 season ranked No. 3.
• Ole Miss has been ranked in the top 25 every week this season, which is its longest streak since being ranked for the entirety of the 2015 season.
• The SEC boasts six different teams ranked in the top 25, including top-ranked Georgia.

NO HUDDLE, NO PROBLEM
The Ole Miss offense has been moving the ball up and down the field at an unbelievably fast pace under head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. The Rebels rank fifth in the FBS in number of plays per game (77.4), averaging a play every 20.9 seconds. Ole Miss ran a school record 101 plays on offense in its win at Tennessee. The previous mark was 100 plays in 2004 against Wyoming. The 101 plays run were tied for the ninth-most in SEC history and the most since 2018 when Texas A&M ran 107 in a seven overtime loss to LSU. The Rebels have run 90 or more plays three times this season.

FOURTH AND GOING FOR IT
Ole Miss is second in the country in fourth down attempts (42) and third in conversions (26). Lane Kiffin and the Rebels have gone for it on fourth down at least three times in 10 of Ole Miss’ 12 games this season. The Rebels have been perfect on fourth down attempts against Louisville (3-for-3), Tulane (5-for-5) and LSU (3-for-3).

RUNNIN’ WILD
Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks No. 9 in FBS with 224.2 rushing yards per game. Lane Kiffin‘s offense has tallied 250 or more yards on the ground in half of their games this season. Matt Corral, who came into the season with seven career TD runs over the course of 24 games, is fifth amongst FBS quarterbacks with 11 rushing touchdowns. Snoop Conner ranks third in the SEC in rushing TDs with 13, while Corral is fifth at 11 rushing TDs.

MR. OPPORTUNISTIC
When the Rebels are nearing the goal line trying to find the end zone, chances are very good that Ole Miss will look Snoop Conner’s way. Nineteen of Conner’s 26 career rushing touchdowns have been from five yards or less, including 14 one-yard TD runs. Conner currently ranks third in the SEC with 13 rushing TDs on the season.

HOME SWEET HOME
Ole Miss finished the 2021 campaign with a perfect 7-0 home record, its first undefeated season at home (on the field) since 1992 when the Rebels finished 6-0 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Records show Ole Miss as 5-0 at home in 1993, but the Alabama victory was by way of forfeit due to NCAA rules violation by the Crimson Tide. Alabama defeated the Rebels 19-14 on Oct. 22 of that year. It’s also the first time that Ole Miss has won seven on-campus games within the same season.

GET YOU A QUARTERBACK THAT CAN DO BOTH
Quarterback Matt Corral is not only a threat to burn you with his arm, but as teams are quickly finding out, the junior signal-caller can also beat you with his feet. Corral has thrown for 3,339 yards and 20 touchdowns, while running for 49.8 yards per game and 11 rushing TDs. He’s one of just four FBS quarterbacks with at least 20 passing TDs and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Prior to this season, Corral had just seven career rushing TDs in three seasons for the Rebels. Against Tennessee, Corral became the first Rebel to run 30 times in a game since 2007 when BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran 33 times vs. Missouri. Corral finished with a career high in both rushing yards (195) and attempts (30) vs. the Vols.

O CANADA
Ole Miss has an SEC-most three Canadian players on its roster (Jaden DicksDeane Leonard, and Tavius Robinson). Leonard has started 10 games this season at cornerback and has tallied 48 total tackles on the season. Robinson, who missed the first two contests of the 2021 season due to injury, has appeared in 10 games and has registered 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Dicks, a redshirt freshman, transferred from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and arrived on campus right before the start of fall camp.

KEIDRON SMITH TO WEAR CHUCKY MULLINS PATCH
Ole Miss senior defensive back Keidron Smith was named the winner of the 2021 Chucky Mullins Courage Award earlier in the fall. The award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991. Smith is the 31st recipient in the 32-year history of the award, which is presented annually to an Ole Miss upperclassman defensive player that embodies the spirit of Mullins. Smith wears a 38 patch on his No. 20 jersey rather than switch numbers.

NEW MAN ON THE LINE
Even when Lane Kiffin isn’t fishing, he’s still landing big fish. One of Kiffin’s biggest catches came when the Rebels snagged Utah transfer Orlando Umana. Umana has started 11 games on the offensive line for the Rebels, missing just one contest due to injury. Umana joined the Rebels after spending four years at Utah where he appeared in 40 career games, including 26 starts. Twenty-two of those starts came at center for the Utes. Battling injury, Umana appeared in just one game for Utah during a shortened 2020 season. Umana played in all 14 games on the offensive line as a sophomore in 2018, starting four at left guard and the last nine at center for Utah. The Sacramento, California, native allowed just one sack in 472 pass blocks in 2018.

A SPECIAL WEAPON
Punter Mac Brown is no stranger on Rebel special teams. The senior has appeared in a team-best 50 career games for Ole Miss and continues to be a special weapon for the Rebels. Brown is averaging 44.9 yards per punt on 38 punts this season. Twelve of his 38 punts have traveled more than 50 yards.

CORRAL WINS 2021 CONERLY TROPHY
Quarterback Matt Corral was named the winner of the 2021 C Spire Conerly Trophy as Mississippi’s most outstanding college football player this season. Named after College Football Hall of Famer and Ole Miss legend Charlie Conerly, the trophy was first conferred in 1996. The Conerly Trophy has now been awarded to an Ole Miss player 10 times, the most by any school. Past Ole Miss winners include: Stewart Patridge (1997), Deuce McAllister (1999), Eli Manning (2001, 2003), Patrick Willis (2006), Bo Wallace (2012), Evan Engram (2016), A.J. Brown (2017) and Elijah Moore (2021).

FIRST-TIME STARTERS
Eighteen different Rebels have started their first game in an Ole Miss uniform this season: OL Eli Acker, DB Miles Battle, DL Quentin Bivens, LB Chance Campbell, LB Ashanti Cistrunk, OL Jalen Cunningham, DL Isaiah Iton, WR Dannis Jackson, DL Cedric Johnson, DB Tysheem Johnson, OL Cedric Melton, WR Jahcour Pearson, DB Deantre Prince, OL Bryce Ramsey, OL Jordan Rhodes, LB Mark Robinson, SS Jake Springer and OL Orlando Umana.

DEBUTS
A total of 27 different Rebels have made their Ole Miss debuts so far this season: QB Luke Altmyer, DB Kyndrich Breedlove, WR Bralon Brown, DB Markevious Brown, K Caden Costa, DB MJ Daniels, WR Qua Davis, DL Jamond Gordon, WR JJ Henry, DL Isaiah Iton, DB Tysheem Johnson, LS Solomon Landrum, OL Tywone Malone, OL Cedric Melton, RB Bobo Miller, K Cale Nation, OL Jordan Rhodes, LB Mark Robinson, WR Jahcour Pearson, OL Jordan Rhodes,  DL DeSanto Rollins, DB Jake Springer, DB CJ Terrell, OL Orlando Umana, DB Tyrrell Vassel, DB Trey Washington, and TE Hudson Wolfe.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
• The Rebels rank top 15 in the country in eight separate offensive categories: total offense (506.7), scoring offense (35.9), rushing offense (224.2), pass efficiency (154.9) completion percentage (.681), first downs (318), passes had intercepted (4) and turnovers lost (9).
• Ole Miss is the only team in the nation with four players with 500 or more rushing yards this season.
• The Rebels have gained 600-plus yards seven times in 22 games under Lane Kiffin … Before Kiffin, the Rebels had 16 such games in the program’s 1,209 games.
• The Rebels are second in the FBS in fourth down attempts (42) and are third in conversions (26).
• Ole Miss has tallied 235 total plays of 10 or more yards over the course of 12 games this season and rank seventh nationally in that category.
• QB Matt Corral ranks top 20 nationally in eight different categories: total offense (328.0), passing yards (3,339), passing yards per game (278.2), completion percentage (.684), yards per pass attempt (8.8), completions per game (21.7), passing efficiency (157.5) and points responsible for (188).
• Corral is one of only four FBS QBs with at least 20 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing TDs.
• RB Snoop Conner ranks third in the SEC with 11 rushing touchdowns.
• Nineteen of Conner’s 26 career rushing touchdowns have been from five yards or less, including 14 one-yard TD runs.
• WR Braylon Sanders leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in yards per reception (22.3).
• WR Dontario Drummond needs 76 more receiving yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
• Corral (second team), RB Jerrion Ealy (second team) and OL Eli Acker (freshman team) all earned All-SEC honors.

DEFENSIVE NOTES
• Ole Miss ranks as the fourth most-improved defense in the FBS, allowing 13.3 less points this season compared to 2020.
• The Rebels have forced a turnover in 20 of the 22 games during the Kiffin era.
• Ole Miss ranks sixth nationally with 3.3 sacks per game.
• Of the 26 signees that Ole Miss signed as part of the 2020-21 signing class, 15 were on the defensive side of the ball, including eight defensive backs.
• Ole Miss has an SEC-most three Canadian players on its roster, all of which are on the defensive side of the ball (Jaden DicksDeane Leonard, and Tavius Robinson).
• Ole Miss’ 39 sacks this year are the second-most in program history, just two shy of the school record (41) set in 1999.
• DL Sam Williams has a school record 12.5 sacks on the season … He ranks fourth in the FBS in sacks.
• Williams earned All-America honors from four different publications prior to the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl appearance.
• LB Chance Campbell is fourth in the SEC with 8.4 tackles per game.
• DB Keidron Smith was named the winner of the 2021 Chucky Mullins Courage Award and wears a 38 patch on his No. 20 jersey.
• DB Tysheem Johnson was named to the Freshman All-SEC team following his true freshman campaign.