(9) Ole Miss Rebels vs. (6) TCU Horned Frogs (-3, 56.5)
The No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs have had one of the most exciting – and entertaining – regular seasons anyone can remember; but, despite only suffering one loss on the season – which came on the road against a top-five team – they weren’t able to crack the playoff picture.
Now, the team has to settle for a spot in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl against the No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels (12:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, December 31, at the Georgia Dome).
The only setback for the Frogs this season was a 61-58 shootout against Baylor – a fellow 11-1 team that was left out of the CFP – on the road in Waco. In that game, the TCU offense did what it had been doing all season long: it put points on the board at an astonishing rate. (TCU finished the regular season averaging 46.8 PPG, second in the nation.) That is, until part way through the fourth quarter.
Despite being 7.5-point dogs, TCU was up by 21 on Baylor with 11 minutes to go; but the offense faltered down the stretch – and the defense disappeared – allowing Baylor to come all the way back for a thrilling victory.
Though that game cost them a playoff spot, head coach Gary Patterson is treating the Peach Bowl as TCU’s own version of the CFP.
“We feel like this is a playoff game,” said Patterson, who signed an extension through 2020 to stay in Fort Worth. “Ole Miss was as high as third in the nation; they play at a very high level.”
Ole Miss is the complete converse to TCU. The Rebels boast a dominant defense and an, at-times, non-existent offense. The D held opponents to an FBS-best 13.8 points per game. The O, on the other hand, averaged just over 30 per contest (57th in the country) and was held under ten in two of the team’s three losses (10-7 against LSU and 30-0 against Arkansas).
The best moment of the season for Ole Miss was undoubtedly its 24-17 win over Alabama in early October. Although, a dominant 31-17 upset victory over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl was a close second.
The Rebels suffered their share of setbacks in the SEC gauntlet this year, but Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is generally happy with how his team acquitted itself.
“It’s a difficult task in this league, but I think we’ve proven that we can be competitive and relevant,” said Freeze.
Ole Miss is a stellar 23-12 all-time in bowl games and has won its last six in a row, including last year’s Music City Bowl over Georgia Tech (25-17). The Horned Frogs have also had success recently, winning six of their last eight bowl games. But they are just 13–15–1 all-time and dropped their more recent appearance, the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, to Michigan State (17-16).
Despite Ole Miss’ recent bowl game success, the Horned Frogs come into the Peach Bowl as three-point favorites.
(Photo credit: Karen Blaha (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)