ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL STORYLINES
1. After a humbling defeat a year ago in the postseason, Ole Miss looks to make amends when it takes on Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 in New Orleans. The Rebels absorbed a 42-3 loss in last season’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU and now must contend with another talented team from the Big 12. The Cowboys started 10-0 and had hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff before ending the regular season with back-to-back losses.
2. Ole Miss junior defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche - the team’s best defensive player - fell 15 feet twice from a window in mid-December and had to be hospitalized. The team announced Dec. 20 that Nkemdiche, who was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession following the incident, will be suspended for the bowl game. "I have learned a valuable lesson in the last week, and I look forward to showing NFL personnel that this is not representative of my true character," said Nkemdiche, who announced he will enter the NFL draft, where he likely will be a top-10 pick. "I want to thank my coaches, my teammates and Rebel Nation for their support these past three years, and I look forward to making them proud for years to come."
3. Oklahoma State has some injury issues of its own with quarterback Mason Rudolph employing a walking boot on his right foot with the bowl game less than two weeks away. Still, coach Mike Gundy seems to be unconcerned about the status of Rudolph and two of his weapons, tight end Blake Jarwin (ribs) and fullback Jeremy Seaton (undisclosed). Rudolph led the Big 12 with 57 passes of 20 yards or more and finished his sophomore regular season with 3,591 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Ole Miss --7
ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2, 7-2 Big 12): The Cowboys rank in the top 10 nationally in passing yards (seventh) and points per game (ninth). They have tons of weapons on offense, but sophomore wide receiver James Washington (52 catches, 1,077 yards, 10 touchdowns) is the best of the bunch. Oklahoma State’s running game is relatively mediocre with only Chris Carson (504 yards) having amassed more than 300 and the team averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
ABOUT OLE MISS (9-3, 6-2 SEC): The Rebels’ offense is centered around dynamic receiver Laquon Treadwell (76 catches, 1,082 yards, eight TDs), who had found the end zone in six straight games prior to a quiet day against Mississippi State to end the regular season. Chad Kelly threw 27 touchdowns during the year, including three in a signature win against Alabama back in September. A one-point overtime loss to a strong Arkansas team is the only thing separating Ole Miss from entering the postseason on a five-game winning streak.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss 33, Oklahoma State 24