Ole Miss vs. Penn State: 5 things to know about Peach Bowl matchup
Ole Miss is on its way to the Peach Bowl, where it will play Penn State.
The matchup marks the second New Year’s Six bowl for the Rebels under Lane Kiffin, who took over in 2020. Ole Miss played in the 2021 Sugar Bowl and lost to Baylor 21-7.
PEACH BOWL BOUND ?
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 3, 2023
The Nittany Lions are 10-2 on the season and gunning for their second-straight 11-win season. Penn State also played in a New Year’s Six bowl last season, taking on Utah in the Rose Bowl.
Here are 5 things to know about Ole Miss’ Peach Bowl matchup against Penn State.
Rebels are going for first 11-win season in program history
It might be surprising to some, but Ole Miss has never won 11 games in its 129 previous seasons. The Rebels are looking to reach that number this season.
The Rebels have reached the 10-win mark three times in the past 10 years, but could never get over the hump of winning an 11th game. Getting over that hump is certainly on the minds of Kiffin and his team.
It won’t be an easy task, however. Penn State is looked outstanding all season and isn’t going to let up in the bowl matchup. Ole Miss could also be without a few key players if some NFL-bound talents decide to sit out of the bowl game, but it’s not clear who will sit out, if anyone.
The game also marks the third Peach Bowl that Ole Miss has appeared in. It won the 1971 Peach Bowl against Georgia Tech and lost the game in 2014 against TCU.
Rebels and Nittany Lions had similar seasons
Ole Miss and Penn State had very similar seasons.
The Rebels had an outstanding season with their only two losses coming to the powerhouses of the SEC in Georgia and Alabama. Likewise, Penn State had a great season, but inevitably fell to Ohio State and Michigan this season, just like it has in the past few seasons.
Both the Rebels and the Nittany Lions sit in the second tier of their respective conferences and are looking to make the jump to compete for conference titles against the powerhouse teams.
Penn State will bring offensive firepower
Penn State’s offense is similar to Ole Miss’ in that it puts up big numbers on offense.
The Nittany Lions averaged 37.17 points per game, compared to 34.83 points by the Rebels. Ole Miss has the advantage in yards per game, averaging 455.6 yards per game compared to Penn State’s 391.
Penn State has put up 30 or more points in 9 of its 12 games this season, dominating almost all of its opponents not named Michigan or Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are looking to put up big numbers against Ole Miss’ shaky defense, and the Rebels will need to have a big offensive day to match Penn State’s production.
Penn State has elite running back duo
The Nittany Lions have looked to an elite running back duo to guide their offense.
Penn State has gotten solid production from running backs Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton. The two have split snaps almost completely evenly, with Allen having 162 carries and Singleton having 163. Allen has notched 851 yards and 6 touchdowns while Singleton has recorded 702 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Ole Miss’ run defense has been shaky at times, giving up 151.9 rushing yards per game, so the Rebels will be looking to step up and try to slow down the pair in the matchup.
Obviously, Ole Miss has an elite running back of their own in Quinshon Judkins, so the Peach Bowl matchup could make for an exciting game on the ground.
Peach Bowl win could mean getting over the hump
Ole Miss has found major success under Kiffin since he took over in 2020, but it’s fair to say the Rebels are still lacking a win against an elite program.
Since Kiffin took over as head coach in 2020, Ole Miss has only picked up a few ranked wins and has failed to be elite, consistent programs like Alabama. It beat Tulane and LSU earlier this season, but didn’t beat a ranked team outside of that in 2023.
The Rebels have picked up a few ranked wins during Kiffin’s tenure, but none as big as a win over Penn State would be. If Ole Miss can clinch a victory in the Peach Bowl, it could be the boost that the program needs to begin competing for a conference title next season.
Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Penn State 34
Penn State was just a couple of touchdowns away from being a College Football Playoff team. The same cannot be said for Ole Miss.
The Nittany Lions were just one score away from tying the game against Ohio State back in October, and they were just 9 points away from sending the Michigan game into overtime. Penn State was the third-best team in the Big Ten, and the gap between 3 and 4 was substantial.
For Ole Miss, it lost by 2 touchdowns to Alabama and got blown out 52-17 by Georgia. The Rebels have been a great, upper tier SEC team this season, but Penn State was much closer to the elite level.
The matchup on Dec. 30 will undoubtedly be a fun one, but Penn State is going to take a close game.