January 2, 2009

Cotton Bowl: Mississippi (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (11-1)

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Played six days before the SEC and Big 12 meet in the national championship, the Cotton Bowl may give fans a glimpse of what lies in store for Florida and Oklahoma. On one side, we have Ole Miss — the only team to beat Florida during the regular season. On the other, high-flying Texas Tech’s offensive philosophy provides a similar picture to Oklahoma, though more skewed towards the passing game. The same questions exist here as do in the B.C.S. national championship game: Can Texas Tech control the Ole Miss front seven? Can the Ole Miss secondary contain Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree? And like the national title game, the Cotton Bowl is expected to be a good one.

The Cotton Bowl: Friday, Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. in Dallas

Mississippi

What a difference a year makes for the Rebels, who ended last season on the lowest of low notes (blowing a 14-0 lead in the Egg Bowl). What a difference a new coach makes as well. Houston Nutt has reversed the losing trend developed under Ed Orgeron, who led the Rebels to only 10 wins over three seasons. Few bowl teams finished the regular season hotter than Ole Miss, which won its final five games to finish 8-4, its best record since the Eli Manning-led 2003 team went 10-3. The Rebels’ quarterback is the Texas transfer Jevan Snead, who was terrific in his first year as the starter. He threw 15 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions during Mississippi’s five-game win streak. End Greg Hardy and tackle Peria Jerry combine to give Ole Miss one of the most formidable defensive lines in the country.

Texas Tech

Because of the hullabaloo about who was left out of the title game, you tend to forget about the teams who were left out of the B.C.S. entirely. Texas Tech, along with Boise State, is a team with a genuine B.C.S. resume (a 39-33 win over then-No. 1 Texas, for starters) which found itself on the outside looking in. The Red Raiders are the only one-loss team from a B.C.S. conference left out. Of course, the reason Tech is in the Cotton Bowl and not, say, the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl, was the 65-21 trouncing dropped on it by Oklahoma, which did irreparable damage to its national standing. Word of the wise to the Red Raiders: Sleep on this game, don’t come to play, and Ole Miss will be only too happy to take full advantage. Thinking outside the box, keep an eye on (if you can find him) the diminutive receiver Eric Morris, who finished second on the team with eight receiving touchdowns. Morris makes Wes Welker, another undersized Tech receiver, look like Randy Moss.

Mississippi Bowl History

Record: 19-12

Last appearance: 2004 Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma State (W, 31-28)

Texas Tech Bowl History

Record: 10-20-1

Last appearance: 2008 Gator Bowl vs. Virginia (W, 31-28)

Cotton Bowl History

First played in 1937

Last year: Missouri 38, Arkansas 7

Bowl Pick ‘Em

Pete: Mississippi. Will this game offer any clues to how Florida will do against Oklahoma?
Thayer: Texas Tech. New question that Rebels Coach Houston Nutt can ask his team next season: “How many have won a bowl game before?”
Paul: Texas Tech. But the Ole Miss front four is going to give Tech fits.
Fred: Texas Tech. Love the Red Raiders and love Mike Leach. This is one of the more intriguing non-B.C.S. bowl games. I just think Texas Tech has too much offense.
Connor: Texas Tech. Ole Miss is headed on the right track with Houston Nutt, but Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree make the Red Raiders too explosive.

Source: The Quad

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