After casually recording yet another 10-win regular season in the Lane Kiffin era, Ole Miss once again finds itself in the New Year’s Six pool.
With the Peach Bowl invitation, Ole Miss’ is tied for eighth overall with four New Year’s Six appearances, which ranks third in the SEC, trailing only Alabama and Georgia. To be fair, if you combine Florida and LSU’s New Year’s Six appearances, they would have five, which would top Ole Miss.
The 2023 Peach Bowl marks Ole Miss’ third time playing in the game, with the previous two against Georgia Tech (1971) and TCU (2014). As mentioned above, one of those went A LOT better than the other.
Of note, this year’s game will also be the third different venue Ole Miss has played in while spending part of December in Atlanta. The game against Georgia Tech was in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (then known as Atlanta Stadium; go #Barves), and the TCU game was played in the Georgia Dome. RIP to both.
Ole Miss will face Penn State in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a place the Rebels last visited in 2021 to open the season against Louisville (43-24 win). My petition to move the game to the parking lot where Atlanta-Fulton County once stood has yet to be ruled upon, mostly because I just thought of it and haven’t actually written it or gotten signatures.
While we wait for the latest developments in Portal Szn and the early signing period, let’s take a look at Ole Miss’ previous two Peach Bowl appearances.
1971 - Ole Miss 41, Georgia Tech 18
Speaking of Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium, drink in its 1971 glory:
Fresh off a 9-2 regular season with losses to only Alabama and Georgia (SOUNDS FAMILIAR*), Ole Miss came to Atlanta looking for a 10th win in Billy Kinard’s first season as head coach.
*A combined score of 78-13; 76-27 in 2023.
Before we get into the game, let’s eyeball the list of Ole Miss’ nine wins in the 1971 regular season:
- Long Beach State
- Southern Miss
- Mississippi State
Where can we sign up for that schedule again?
*A night game in Tampa, and they won 28-27. I have 1.7 million questions.
As for the game against Georgia Tech, Ole Miss came out hot, building a 38-6 halftime lead that even Billy Kinard couldn’t fart away in the second half. Ole Miss quarterback Norris Weese took home Most Valuable Offensive Player honors with a pile of 148 yards of total offense and two touchdowns (7-14 passing, 116 yards).
If you’re thinking, wow, that sounds like a pretty miserable 41-18 game, you might be right. According to game reports and this video, conditions were of the soggy variety:
Georgia Tech fumbled three times, losing all three, while the Rebels lost one of their two fumbles. Ole Miss also barely edged the Yellow Jackets 318-317 in total yards, so, yeah. It was likely not a viewing experience of which to speak fondly.
However, it was important to cherish the win and experience, as Ole Miss was transitioning out of the John Vaught years and into the wasteland of the 1970s and early 80s. In fact, Ole Miss’ next bowl appearance came 12 (TWELVE) years later when Billy Brewer took his team to the 1983 Independence Bowl and lost to Air Force.
Here’s what a 12-year bowl drought looks like:
- 1972 - 5-5
- 1973 - 6-5 (Bill Kinard fired after the third game)
- 1974 - 3-8
- 1975 - 6-5
- 1976 - 6-5
- 1977 - 6-5
- 1978 - 5-6
- 1979 - 4-7
- 1980 - 3-8
- 1981 - 4-6-1
- 1982 - 4-7
To be fair, if the mid-to-late 1970s featured more Birmingham and Tax Act Texas Bowls, the program would’ve been awash in lower-tier bowl fever.
2014 - TCU 42, Ole Miss 3
Before we dive into this mess, let’s set the table. If you recall, Ole Miss started the season 7-0 for the first time since the Kennedy Administration. It was as fine of a time as I can recall.
Then Hugh Freeze tried to win a game in Baton Rouge 7-3 and lost 10-7. For the record, that remains the Ole Miss game I am Most Mad About™ because [gestures at trying to win 7-3].
Even with one loss, they were still in the playoff mix, though their margin for error was zero. The following week against Auburn, well, you already know.
Laquon Treadwell, who was going in to score the go-ahead touchdown, broke his leg on the half-yard line and fumbled. Auburn recovered and that was the end of any playoff hopes*.
*Walking out of the stadium was almost like walking out of a funeral. No one was talking, and everyone was in the middle of a 1,000-yard stare, as they couldn’t believe the most Ole Miss shit possible had in fact happened.
After a blowout win over Presbyterian, Ole Miss had a bye before heading to Fayetteville. There was still a chance to regroup and get to 10 regular season wins.
Then the game started. It was a meltdown almost instantly. Arkansas scored on its first three possessions to go up 17-0 in the first quarter, which was followed by Dr. Bo badly spraining his ankle early in the second quarter.
To the team’s credit, they never quit when they had every chance to do so. Dr. Bo even returned, albeit on one leg, but the deficit and his injury were too much, and the final score ballooned to 30-0.
To end the regular season, Ole Miss hosted Mississippi State, who was ranked fourth in the playoff. As you know, Ole Miss put whatever they had left in the tank into that game and ended the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes, while getting themselves into the Peach Bowl.
They faced a TCU team bounced out of the playoff (ranked 3rd heading into the final ranking) because of a very serious, rigorous, and consistent process from the playoff committee that was in no way, shape, or form the product of making shit up as they go because they can. The committee would never do that, even to this day-
[places hand on ear]
Okay, but what abou-
So they just do it.
[looks back at the camera]
Apparently, we have some new information that the committee still uses the same nonsensical approach today. More on your late local news.
As for the game, a mostly mentally exhausted Ole Miss team probably would’ve been fine if TCU rolled into Atlanta moping around and feeling sorry for themselves due to their playoff exclusion. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, THEY DID NOT.
TCU came in as angry and motivated as a team could be, and they saw an Ole Miss team ripe for being obliterated. It was devastation out of the gate. The Horned Frogs led 28-0 at halftime and easily could’ve scored another 28 or more in the second half.
Ole Miss achieved the following:
- 129 yards of offense
- 4 turnovers (including one pick six)
- 5 sacks allowed
- 3 of 15 on 3rd down
- 0.2 yards/carry
- The saddest of sad field goal attempts:
No one, and I mean no one, beats a Hugh Freeze team 42-0. Except maybe Jerry Kill. Plenty of time left for that to happen.
However, never let it be said Ole Miss didn’t learn anything from this game. TCU’s first touchdown came via a pass from a wide receiver to the running back, who slipped out of the backfield and ran straight down the middle of the field.
Ole Miss saw the play and stored that information for later use. Like say, in the Sugar Bowl the next year against Oklahoma State when Laquon Treadwell hit Jordan Wilkins for a big gain.
While it wasn’t THE Treadwell pass play, it was A Treadwell pass play. Totally different because one worked and the thousand (a few) others did not.
Whatever happens in a few weeks, let us hope it is more of the 1971 variety rather than the wreck of 2014. However, given this is Ole Miss and the Peach Bowl sample size includes a blowout win and loss, it feels like an Ole Miss Peach Bowl appearance is due for something in the middle, which is a tight, anxiety-riddled game that gets the blood pressure at unhealthy levels before noon.
In other words, RIGHT IN OLE MISS’ WHEELHOUSE, BABY.