Jan. 2, 2 p.m. (FOX)
Oklahoma State take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: Mike Gundy’s team had hopes of making its first BCS at-large appearance before a stunning 27-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season. They could be facing more of the same against a talented Mississippi defense that ranked in the top 25 in pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss. The Rebels whipped Texas Tech at the point of attack last season in the Cotton Bowl and will be looking for more of the same against the Cowboys. But they will be facing a different challenge from a run-heavy Oklahoma State offense keyed by All-American offensive tackle Russell Okung, bullish running back Keith Toston (1,177 rushing yards) and 2008 Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter, who will have another month to get over his early-season injuries.
Bill Young has done a nice job retooling Oklahoma State's defense, which ranked sixth nationally in rush defense and will be tested by leading Mississippi running back Dexter McCluster (985 yards). The key for the game could well be which team gets the best play from quarterbacks who struggled late in the season. Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson was hobbled with injuries and Mississippi's Jevan Snead threw three interceptions in a season-ending loss at Mississippi State. These teams have met once before when Mississippi escaped with a 31-28 victory over the Cowboys in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.
Mississippi take by SEC blogger Chris Low:Ole Miss gets a return trip to Dallas, this time getting to play in the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium. The Rebels can only hope the whole Cotton Bowl experience is as much fun as last season when they shredded Texas Tech.
The end of this regular season wasn’t much fun for anybody in Oxford. Ole Miss was whipped 41-27 by rival Mississippi State, solidifying the Rebels as the toughest team to figure this season in the SEC. They didn’t live up to their top-10 billing early, but then hit a stretch in October and November where they did look like the real deal, only to bow meekly to the Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl.
After a brilliant debut season in the SEC, junior quarterback Jevan Snead threw 17 interceptions and was one of the more disappointing players in the league. He never found a rhythm and didn’t play with a lot of confidence at times.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt didn’t put Dexter McCluster at running back full time until midway through the season, and boy, did he take off. Always a threat to go the distance, McCluster rushed for 821 yards in his last five SEC games.
Nutt and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy go back a ways. Nutt was an assistant coach on Oklahoma State’s staff when Gundy was the Cowboys’ quarterback in the 1980s.