Ole Miss vs. Baylor: 5 things to know about Rebels' Sugar Bowl opponent
Ole Miss is headed to its 10th Sugar Bowl in program history and its first since the 2015 season. The Rebels will face Baylor and will look to get their 11th win this season. The Bears earned a spot in this game by defeating Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game in a thrilling ending that featured the Bears stopping the Cowboys on the 1-yard line in the final seconds.
As the matchup inches closer, here are five things to know about Baylor.
1. The Bears led the Big 12 in rushing
In a league known for its passing attacks, Baylor’s identity is as a physical team that runs the football efficiently. The Bears led the Big 12 in rushing, averaging 214 yards per game. The effort was led largely by running backs Abram Smith and Tristan Ebner. Quarterback Gary Bohanon is a threat to run the ball in the red zone and adds another dimension to the Bears’ attack. He did not play in the Big 12 Championship game because of an injury.
2. Baylor rushes the passer well
The Bears finished third in the Big 12 in sacks with 34 (Oklahoma State led the nation with 55). No single pass rusher stands out above the others for the Bears, but their linebackers are aggressive in pass rush situations and coach Dave Aranda has been aggressive in sending pressure with his linebackers.
3. The secondary is its greatest defensive strength
Baylor led the Big 12 in interceptions with 16 on the season, tied for 5th in FBS. The Bears have a pair of tremendous safeties in J.T. Woods and Jalen Pitre. This will be a challenge for the Ole Miss receivers as well as QB Matt Corral. If Ole Miss isn’t running the ball well and becomes one-dimensional, Baylor could create a couple of turnovers with its secondary to change the trajectory of the game.
4. The offensive line is among the best in college football
Falling in line with the success the Bears have had running, their offensive line has done a good job protecting the quarterback. Bohanon has only been sacked 9 times this season. Part of that is him getting the football out quickly, but the offensive line has also done a great job protecting Bohanon and has made Baylor a pretty balanced offense.
5. Tyquan Thorton is the biggest receiving threat
Thornton led all Bears receivers in both yards (947) and receptions (61). The senior is the team’s lone home run hitting threat. He has had catches of 40 yards or more in five of the team’s 13 games and has caught a pass longer than 20 yards in nine of those games. He is Bohanon’s most trusted target.