A battle of high-octane offenses will unfold in New Year's Day's Sugar Bowl when the Oklahoma State Cowboys square off against the Ole Miss Rebels at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Oklahoma State was in the College Football Playoff conversation until consecutive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma to end its season. The Rebels beat CFP participant Alabama but stumbled elsewhere on their schedule en route to a 9-3 record.
Odds Shark lists Ole Miss as seven-point favorites. Read on for a more detailed breakdown and prediction as to how this Sugar Bowl matchup in New Orleans will play out.
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss Prediction
Sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph, who's the catalyst for a passing attack that's seventh in the country with 357.3 yards per contest, leads the Cowboys. As talented as the Ole Miss defensive front is, its secondary is susceptible to being gashed.
Also working against coach Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss outfit is the anguishing decision he had to make to suspend star defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche for the Sugar Bowl following an arrest.
But Oklahoma State is among the worst in the country running the ball, which lessens the impact of Nkemdiche's absence.
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One source of the Cowboys' scant production on the ground comes from senior signal-caller J.W. Walsh. He spells Rudolph on occasion almost exclusively to run. Walsh has racked up 285 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns this season.
An apparent foot injury limited Rudolph in the loss to Oklahoma, but Freeze isn't overlooking the superior passer entering the Sugar Bowl.
"We'll be ready for both," said Freeze, per the Tupelo Daily Journal's Parrish Alford, via the Sun Herald. "It's hard to stop those guys. They're very good. Their coaches do a good job preparing them. We've seen both play and have worked against packages with both of them in there."
Chad Kelly leads the Rebels' top-10 passing offense, which is complemented by a superior running game. Oklahoma State is far more one-dimensional than Ole Miss on offense, which could be the big edge the Rebels need to take command of this contest.
Unlike the rather immobile Rudolph, Kelly is a threat to run the ball. He has 427 yards rushing this season despite sack yardage being taken into account.
Travis Reier of BamaOnline weighed in on Kelly's impact on a team that garners a lot of attention for its defense:
Senior Rebels running back Jaylen Walton is quick, and he's also a threat as a kick returner, providing the Rebels with an advantage in multiple phases of the game.
In addition to more stability under center and better balance, Ole Miss has the benefit of a unique weapon in Laquon Treadwell on the outside. Treadwell may leave for the NFL draft and will want to close out his career in style if that winds up being the case.
The odds are stacked against Oklahoma State. Coach Mike Gundy's bunch is going to have plenty of pride and will do its best not to lose three straight to end an otherwise exceptional year. The uncertainty surrounding Rudolph alone gives Ole Miss the edge here.
Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Oklahoma State 24
Note: Stats courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise indicated.