Beginning with Tommy Tuberville's win over Marshall in the Motor City Bowl and running through last year's Peach Bowl disaster, Ole Miss has been #BlessedButNotAuburnBlessed with bowl game experiences over the last 18 years. Some of those experiences were quite enjoyable, while others simply allowed you to add Shreveport to the list of places you have been in your life.
Since this is the Internet, and rankings are required by federal law to encourage shouting and unsolicited rage opinions, our purpose here is to rank each of Ole Miss' 11 bowl game experiences since 1997. Using a secret combination of program status, destination, and result, these bowl experiences are ranked in order of "It was so lit we drank all the beer on our side of the stadium by the end of the first quarter" to "We left at halftime".
With those extremely firm guidelines in mind, let's get to the rankings.
Note: The year listed with each bowl reflects the regular season year. For example, the "2008 Cotton Bowl" actually took place in 2009, but I always refer to it as 2008 since it was a part of that season.
1) 2008 Cotton Bowl
47-34 win over Texas Tech
Some might say the 2003 Cotton Bowl belongs here, and to that I say, SURELY YOU JEST. Yes, the 2003 game was the first time Ole Miss had been to a New Year's Day bowl since Billy Brewer's team was mauled by Michigan in the Gator Bowl, but the program had six consecutive winning seasons and five bowl appearances leading up to that first Cotton Bowl. While some of those seasons were frustrating, Ole Miss wasn't wandering around a barren wasteland of complete incompetence and very few wins.
If you recall, going into the 2008 season, Ole Miss was fresh off a three-year stretch of 10-25 overall and 3-21 in SEC play. THREE AND TWENTY-ONE. Throw in David Cutcliffe's 4-7 (3-5) season in 2004, and Ole Miss fans lived for four years with a total of six conference wins.
One might say we were SOMEWHAT starving for any kind of success. Inexplicably, Houston Nutt delivered it and topped it off a bowl experience that included Ole Miss fans drinking the Cotton Bowl dry, setting booze records at bars, and smashing a top-10 team to pieces.
2) 2003 Cotton Bowl
31-28 win over Oklahoma State
Despite David Cutcliffe's best David Cutcliffe efforts (Memphis and Texas Tech), an Eli Manning-led team finally put it all together and allowed Ole Miss fans to not exit I-20 at Shreveport. While it was a grand old time running around Dallas and beating the Oklahoma State version of Les Miles, it's always a joy to remember that had our Lou Groza Award winner not missed two field goals, we would've been a step above the Cotton Bowl.
Not that I still think about a game played 12 years ago.
3) 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl
38-17 win over Pittsburgh
A cousin to Shreveport, Birmingham wasn't the greatest, but getting out of the wilderness* was. A team that, in the previous year, lost all eight conference games by an average score of roughly 37-12 managed to overachieve its way to decaying Legion Field and crush Pittsburgh in front of 30,000 Ole Miss fans, who drank cold beers sold at folding tables hastily set up in the cramped concourse.
That entire season let Ole Miss fans know that Hugh Freeze mostly knew what he was doing, but more importantly, it convinced the likes of Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, and Laquon Treadwell that Ole Miss was headed in a better direction and a fine place to UNDERACHIEVE AND NOT WIN NOTHIN**.
*Copyright: Hugh Freeze
4) 1998 Independence Bowl
35-18 win over Texas Tech
After Tommy Tuberville climbed out of his pine box on his way to Auburn and Ole Miss was destroyed in the Egg Bowl by an Atlanta-bound State team, things were 100 percent NOT GREAT, BOB in Oxford. Then, all in the span of a month, David Cutcliffe took the Ole Miss job, operated at full make-it-up-as-you-go capacity, got really sick, and coached the Rebels to a win over Texas Tech.
The game had zero significance in the world of college football and took place in a non-exotic location (unless Red River casinos are your thing), but it provided hope that Ole Miss had a coach who was going to carry on what Tuberville had started. And OH MAN, did we stuff our faces with that hope.
5) 2009 Cotton Bowl
21-7 win over Oklahoma State
I seem to have forgotten, how long was it since Ole Miss won back-to-back January 1 games?
Pardon? Did you say 50?
As in combining a five and a zero?
Say, when was the last time Ole Miss won just one conference game in a two-year period?
(And if you think this ranking is too low, I'd ask that you consult your memories on how that 2009 season went. Oh, and both teams combined for 12 turnovers in this game.)
6) 2013 Music City Bowl
25-17 win over Georgia Tech
A terrible end to the regular season, but hey, this game signified progress, right? Or something. Anyway, Nashville is a fun place to go for a few days.
7) 1997 Motor City Bowl
34-31 win over Marshall
Yet another bowl victory giving Ole Miss fans a dose of hope for the future. On this occasion, Tommy Tuberville continued the climb out of the hellhole created by NCAA probation, which allowed Ole Miss fans to believe sustained success was a reality.
What Tuberville did in those four years at Ole Miss remains amazing. What's also amazing is that Randy Moss did not do this at least seven times during the game:
Through powers of sorcery, Mallikia Griffin and the other members of the Ole Miss secondary "held" Moss to six catches for 173 yards and a touchdown.
8) 1999 Independence Bowl
27-25 win over Oklahoma
Sure, let's go to Shreveport in consecutive years on New Year's Eve!
Fun fact: though Oklahoma lost this game, they would win that national championship the following year, while Ole Miss was obliterated in the Music City Bowl.
9) 2002 Independence Bowl
27-23 win over Nebraska
HAVE WE BEEN HERE BEFORE? I need science to halt all production of science and come up with a formula that allows me to calculate how much of my lifetime output of anger is directly related to David Cutcliffe's failures as a head coach at Ole Miss.
My fondest memory of this trip was a fight in my section between a Mississippi State fan (reppin' the DAWGS with a State sweatshirt at an Ole Miss bowl game) and a Rebel fan. A policewoman went charging into the drunk grapple-fight and broke it up. As she hauled the State guy away, someone started shouting that she was now the police chief of our section.
Later in the game, she was shown on the jumbotron and our entire section erupted in a steady chant of "CHIEF! CHIEF! CHIEF!" Beer was $5 at this game.
10) 2000 Music City Bowl
49-38 loss to West Virginia
Now we've arrived at the "We left at halftime" end of the rankings. Losing 35-13 at halftime and a windchill of something like -241 is a good way to get your fanbase to leave early. I remember stories of people crowding in the bathrooms and gift shop because those were the only warm places in the entire stadium.
This only outranks the Peach Bowl because Eli came in late and gave us hope that perhaps a really good quarterback would be enough to one day overcome David Cutcliffe's staggering inability to recruit.
11) 2014 Peach Bowl
42-3 loss to TCU
I have no doubt Atlanta was all kinds of fun leading up to the game (some people had a pretty good time even after the game), but this experience was so horrible and demoralizing that three Independence Bowl trips outrank it. Again, THREE TRIPS TO SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA WERE BETTER THAN GOING TO THE PEACH BOWL IN 2014.
Fortunately, we'll always have Sad Field Goal.
So terribly sad that only one TCU player tried to block it.
Let us hope Friday night's game includes no such field goals for Ole Miss, and establishes a new top ranking of "Each of us consumed 25,000 calories in two days, saw a four-touchdown win, and now please roll me home."