Ole Miss headed to Sugar Bowl, Mississippi State to Liberty Bowl

Published 4:35 pm Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ole Miss is tasting Sugar, while Mississippi State is enjoying a bit of Liberty after their bowl assignments were announced Sunday.

Ole Miss finished No. 8 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Rebels (10-2) will take on No. 7 Baylor (11-2) in the Superdome on Jan. 1.

Mississippi State (7-5), meanwhile, has a date with Texas Tech (6-6) in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 28 in Memphis.

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“We are taking another big step in our growth toward being a championship program by earning a New Year’s Six berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. “I’m excited for our players to compete in one of the most tradition-rich bowls against a premier program in Baylor.”

Ole Miss posted the first 10-win regular season in the program’s history. It earned the Sugar Bowl bid when Southeastern Conference foes Alabama and Georgia both were selected to participate in the College Football Playoff.

Alabama (12-1) will play Cincinnati (13-0) in the Cotton Bowl, and Georgia (12-1) will face Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl. Both national semifinals are on Dec. 31, and the national championship game is Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

The Sugar Bowl was a welcome consolation prize for both Ole Miss and Big 12 champion Baylor.

Baylor is making its fourth appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl since the Playoff era began in 2014. It played in the Sugar Bowl following the 2019 season.

Ole Miss is in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since the 2015 season, and 10th overall. The Rebels are 12-2 in their last 14 bowl appearances.

The only other time Ole Miss and Baylor have faced each other was in the 1975 season opener, which Baylor won 20-10.

“As our fans have showed in the past, Rebel Nation will show up in full force and turn New Orleans into Oxford South,” Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said.

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach will go against one of his former teams — and players — for the first time since coming to Starkville. He was Texas Tech’s head coach from 2000-09. Texas Tech interim head coach Sonny Cumbie played at the school during Leach’s tenure.

Cumbie was Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator until Matt Wells was fired in October and Cumbie was promoted to interim head coach. Cumbie was hired as the head coach at Louisiana Tech last week, but will continue on as Texas Tech’s head coach Texas Tech for the bowl game.

This is the first time MSU and Texas Tech have played each other since 1970.

Mississippi State is making its 12th consecutive bowl appearance. It has won three of its previous four Liberty Bowl appearances, including a 44-7 victory over Rice in its last trip there.

Texas Tech is making its first appearance in the Liberty Bowl. This is the program’s first bowl game of any kind since 2017.

“We’re looking forward to competing against a quality Texas Tech team in the Liberty Bowl,” Leach said in a statement. “All year long, our team has improved week by week and this gives our program the chance to continue getting better. We’re looking forward to both the preparation for the Liberty Bowl and the game itself.”

LSU (6-6) will also play a Big 12 opponent in its bowl game, when it faces Kansas State (7-5) in the Texas Bowl in Houston on Jan. 4.

LSU will play in a bowl game for the 21st time in 22 years. Its lone absence was in 2020, when it was eligible but opted not to play in a bowl because of impending NCAA sanctions.

The Tigers became bowl-eligible this season with a 27-24 win over Texas A&M in the season finale, which was also the final game for outgoing head coach Ed Orgeron. He will not coach the team in the bowl, as assistant Brad Davis takes the reins before handing them off to newly-hired head coach Brian Kelly.

“Our football team fought hard down the stretch of the regular season to qualify for bowl competition, and we are proud they will be able to extend their season at the Texas Bowl,” LSU Director of Athletics Scott Woodward said.

LSU will appear in the Texas Bowl for the second time. It defeated beat Texas Tech, 56-27, in its other appearance in 2015.

This will be just the second meeting between LSU and Kansas State. LSU beat the Wildcats, 21-0, in the second game of the 1980 season in Baton Rouge.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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