No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 10 PSU seek consolation in Peach Bowl

Field Level Media

December 28, 2023 at 8:56 am.

Ole Miss and Penn State both had aspirations of playing on New Year’s Day and perhaps beyond.

However, both lost to the two highest-ranked teams on their schedules.

So the No. 11 Rebels (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) and the No. 10 Nittany Lions (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) will face each other in the Peach Bowl on Saturday in Atlanta.

“It wasn’t our ultimate goal, for sure,” Penn State quarterback Drew Allar said. “There’s things I want to have back throughout the year, but that’s what goes into next year and this game. We put in countless hours of work in the dark on our own and as a team since January, so when we don’t get the results we want, it hurts.”

Ole Miss came up short against Alabama and Georgia, and Penn State came up short against Michigan and Ohio State.

“We expect more of ourselves, but you can see winning in college football is difficult week in and week out,” Penn State offensive lineman Olu Fashanu said. “Anything is possible in college football, so to go 10-2 is difficult, but it’s still not our standard.”

The Nittany Lions finished 11-2 a year ago after a 35-21 victory against Utah in the Rose Bowl.

“When you look around, there’s not a lot of teams who can say they’ve won 10 games in the last two years and gone to the bowl games we have,” Nittany Lions tight end Tyler Warren said, “so I know as a team we’re appreciative and we know we can keep getting better.”

A victory would make Penn State the first school to win all of the New Year’s Six bowls. The Nittany Lions are making their Peach Bowl debut in their first game against the Rebels.

Penn State and Ole Miss figure to be closer to full strength than many bowl teams. Nittany Lions All-Big Ten defensive end Chop Robinson opted out. Six other Penn State players declared for the NFL draft but made the trip and might play limited reps.

Ole Miss appears to have only one major opt-out, defensive end Cedric Johnson, who had 5.5 of his 19 career sacks this season.

The Rebels finished 15th in the country in total offense (455.4 yards per game) in the regular season, while the Nittany Lions were first in total defense (223.2).

“We’re one of the best offenses in the country and they’re one of the best defenses in the country,” Ole Miss wide receiver Jordan Watkins said. “Any time you have one of the best go up against each other, obviously it’s going to be cool to watch.”

The Rebels are making their second New Year’s Six appearance in the past three seasons under Lane Kiffin. The fourth-year head coach signed a contract extension after leading the 2021 team and the 2023 team to the only 10-win regular seasons in school history.

Penn State leads the nation in turnover margin (plus-18) and the Rebels are tied for 12th (plus-9).

“Both teams do a really good job turnover-wise,” Kiffin said. “This will probably be one of those games that you have to really play well in all areas to go down to the wire and make some plays at the end.”