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Friday, January 2, 2009
AT&T Cotton Bowl preview

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A quick preview of Friday's AT&T Cotton Bowl between Ole Miss (8-4) and Texas Tech (11-1):

WHO TO WATCH: He didn't get as much national publicity as his teammate, offensive tackle Michael Oher, but defensive tackle Peria Jerry had a dominant senior season. He led the SEC with 18 tackles for loss and is one of those rare interior linemen that has the power to overwhelm opposing offensive linemen with his strength and the burst to also beat them with his quickness. Jerry is part of a talent-laden Ole Miss defensive line that needs to play that way today if the Rebels are going to slow down Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell.

WHAT TO WATCH: When the Rebels were playing their best football in winning their last five games of the regular season, they were able to keep teams guessing with a perfect balance on offense. Quarterback Jevan Snead threw 13 touchdown passes and only two interceptions during the five-game winning streak, and the Rebels were also able to run the ball whether it was out of their Wild Rebel formation or standard sets. Driving the football and keeping it away from Harrell and the Texas Tech offense will be crucial, as well as not turning it over. The Rebels had just four turnovers in their five-game winning streak. That's after turning it over 18 times in their first seven games.

WHY TO WATCH: This is the prelim in the Big 12 vs. SEC debate. The biggie, of course, is the Florida-Oklahoma tussle in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. But watching the Rebels' defense go up against the No. 7 ranked Red Raiders' offense should answer some questions that have raged all season: Are the Big 12 offenses that good? Or are the Big 12 defenses that bad? Are the SEC offenses that bad. Or are the SEC defenses that good? Moreover, a win could really propel Ole Miss into the offseason with the kind of momentum this program hasn't had in a long time.