Published on December 28th, 2021 | by University of Mississippi1
Ole Miss Football Bowl Notebook: Sugar Bowl Week Begins
Lane Kiffin Meets with Media as Ole Miss Holds First Sugar Bowl Practice
In just the second year under head coach Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss finds itself at 10-2, ranked No. 8 in the nation and headed to one of college football’s most coveted postseason destinations: the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Kiffin’s Rebels will meet the No. 7-ranked Baylor Bears, in a similar spot at 11-2 and New Orleans bound in their second year under head coach Dave Aranda. Kiffin knows his team will need to be at its best to top the Big 12 Conference Champions.
“We’re excited to be here at the Sugar Bowl; obviously, an amazing tradition. For us to be in there in our second year, just a phenomenal job by our players and assistant coaches,” Kiffin said. “Playing a great opponent. I know Coach Aranda well… they’ve always played great wherever he’s been and you can see how hard they play, and give people a lot of problems.”
No matter the opponent, it is clear the Rebels are ready to close a special season with strong showing in the Big Easy. While some of college football’s top talents are opting out of bowl games in preparation for the NFL Draft, Kiffin hasn’t even had a single conversation with a player thinking of opting out.
“I think it’s awesome. We didn’t have a conversation,” Kiffin said. “It’s not like someone came in wavering and we had to talk them out of it, or go over the pros and cons. I think it says a lot about this team. It shows the culture that’s been created here and the improvement from year one to two year, also, when you look at that. It takes a while for your culture to set in. So that was really cool to see, to not have to deal with that.”
Ole Miss began bowl week with no opt-outs, but the Rebels aren’t quite at full strength. During media availability, Kiffin mentioned that some players were unavailable for Monday’s practice due to COVID-19 protocols. The Rebels and Bears were originally scheduled to begin bowl practice in New Orleans on Monday, but both teams will now arrive on Wednesday, December 29.
“We practiced this morning,” Kiffin said. “That would have been no different. We came back the same time as if we were going to New Orleans. So we would have been in New Orleans last night, practicing there this morning, just like we did. So none of the prep part has changed. We’re just doing our stuff here instead of there.”
Ole Miss has already dealt with plenty of adversity this season—most notably injuries that rapidly piled up midway through the season. In both set of circumstances, Kiffin stated that in order to push through, one thing should come to mind.
“They have two years of hearing, ‘Worry about what you can control,'” Kiffin said. “And they certainly can’t control COVID, whether that’s changing games or how you go to games and stuff like that. We worry about what we can control. They started to understand that, and this would fall into that.”
Regardless, the Rebels have remained all-in to win their 11th game of the 2021 season—something that has never been done in the history of Ole Miss football.
“It says a lot about our players, that two short seasons, with COVID shortening the first one and no spring that year, to be in the Sugar Bowl,” Kiffin said. “And crazy enough, someone said the other day ‘what if you would have played good versus Auburn?’ I don’t even know if that’s allowed. Are there three SEC teams in the playoffs, because we’re sitting there at 11-1? That’s crazy to think that you are even that close to that level in year two.”
The Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day kicks off at 7:45 pm CT and can be seen on ESPN or listened to on the Ole Miss Radio Network.