Neither Ole Miss nor Texas Tech was included in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
But their meeting in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night in Houston could still stand out.
“This should be a really competitive game,” Texas Tech first-year coach Joey McGuire said.
That’s because neither his Red Raiders (7-5) nor Lane Kiffin’s Rebels (8-4) were hit by draft-related departures.
“We may have had one or two conversations but no one is (opting out), which is awesome,” said Kiffin, whose 2021 team also played in the Sugar Bowl without any NFL opt-outs. “They’re committed to their team, to playing.”
Kiffin added that “you don’t have as many opt-out discussions” when your team doesn’t have “a lot of guys that are looking at going in the first round.”
“That would be a good problem to have, though,” Kiffin said, “but we don’t have as many maybe as some other places.”
Neither does Texas Tech.
“The good thing is we’re playing a really good football team,” McGuire said. “These guys that have aspirations to play on Sunday, they’re playing some really good football players that are going to be able to play on Sunday.
“So it just gives them another opportunity to put good stuff on tape for the scouts to watch.”
McGuire cited two Rebels who have put a lot of good stuff on tape this season — running backs Quinshon Judkins, a true freshman who has rushed for 1,476 yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as TCU transfer Zach Evans (899 yards, eight TDs).
“They’ve got two dynamic running backs,” McGuire said. “We’re lucky that we play in the Big 12. We’ve played (Bijan) Robinson at Texas and Deuce (Vaughn) at Kansas State. We’ve faced some really good running backs.”
Robinson rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns and Vaughn ran for 170 yards against the Red Raiders, who are allowing 166.4 rushing yards per game.
“We’ve got to start out stopping the run,” McGuire said. “The thing is their quarterback (Jaxson Dart) is a dual threat that can run.”
Dart, a transfer from Southern California, beat out veteran Luke Altmyer, who is among more than a dozen Rebels who have entered the transfer portal.
The Red Raiders not only have avoided opt-outs, but they’re up to 12 seniors — seven starters and five backups who play regularly — who have decided to come back and take advantage of an extra season in 2023 granted because of COVID-19.
Tech won its last three games of the regular season when quarterback Tyler Shough returned to the starting lineup after suffering a collarbone injury in the season opener. The Rebels have lost their past three games.
This the fourth time Ole Miss and Texas Tech have met in a bowl game, the most recent coming in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 2009. The Rebels have won the previous three postseason meetings and lead the overall series 4-2.
–Field Level Media