A look ahead at Texas Tech vs Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl

The regular season is in the books and now all eyes are on the postseason for several teams in the nation. The Red Raiders clinched bowl eligibility for the first time in back-to-back seasons since 2012 and 2013 and are set to face the Ole Miss Rebels in the TaxAct Texas Bowl in Houston.

Texas Tech has played in the Texas Bowl twice in 2012 and 2015, making this trip their third appearance in program history. The Rebels face tough competition week in and week out in the SEC and Tech will have their hands full in this matchup.

Ole Miss is led by head coach Lane Kiffin, who is in his third season at the helm. The team went 5-5 in the COVID-19 shortened season and beat Indiana in the Outback Bowl, but Kiffin’s team quickly improved. The Rebels went 10-3 and finished ranked eleventh in the final AP and coaches polls in 2021 but lost to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

Entering this season, Ole Miss had high expectations. The Rebels were ranked 21st in the country and started hot out of the gates. They started 7-0 and climbed as high ninth in the polls, but the back half of the SEC schedule was not kind to Kiffin and company.

A blowout loss to unranked LSU dropped Ole Miss to 15th, but a three-point win over Texas A&M lifted them to 11th. A narrow loss to Alabama only seemed to be another bump in the road but back-to-back losses to unranked Arkansas and Mississippi State dropped them out of the Top 25 entirely to end the regular season.

On offense, the Rebels are capable of producing big numbers every game. They are third in the SEC in total offense, averaging 491.3 yards per game. The biggest name is running back Quinshon Judkins. The freshman has racked up 1,476 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also took home SEC Newcomer of the Year honors. While Tech has held star running backs in check this year such as Bijan Robinson and Deuce Vaughn, Judkins will arguably be their toughest matchup this year.

If the Texas Tech defense wants to gain the advantage, they have to make Jaxson Dart beat them throwing. Dart is seventh in the SEC in passing with only 2,613 yards on the year and has struggled more down the stretch this season as teams key in on the Rebels’ running game. Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo are the team’s best receivers but have only accounted for nine touchdowns between them. Despite the loss of Tyree Wilson, Tech’s defense has still put pressure on quarterbacks in the last three games and that trend will need to continue in this game.

Defensively, the Rebels are in the middle of the pack of the conference. Ole Miss is eighth in the SEC in total defense surrendering an average of 379.8 yards per game. Linebacker Troy Brown is their best defender, leading the team in tackles with 91. Despite the loss of Donovan Smith, which won’t allow Tech to run a lot of read-option down by the goal line, Tyler Shough and the offense should not have much of an issue moving the ball against the Rebels’ defense.

The Red Raiders are 1-1 in Texas Bowls, having beaten Minnesota in 2012 but losing to LSU in 2015. A win would give them eight victories for the first time since 2013 and back-to-back bowl wins for the first time since the 2012 and 2013 seasons. With the extra practices and a bowl win in just his first season, the confidence in Joey McGuire and “The Brand” would continue to build.

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