Friday, January 1, 2010
AT&T Cotton Bowl preview
By ESPN.com staff
Breaking down the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Saturday (FOX, 2 p.m. ET) between Oklahoma State (9-3) and Ole Miss (8-4):
WHO TO WATCH: If they awarded the Heisman Trophy based on the last half of the season, Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster might have found himself in New York City for the awards ceremony. He was that good down the stretch and rushed for 821 yards in his last five SEC games. He also has a chance to become the first player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards and have 500 receiving yards in the same season. He currently sits at 985 rushing yards and 475 receiving yards. Despite weighing just 170 pounds, McCluster has been amazingly durable this season. And when he gets loose in the open field, he’s truly a treat to watch.
WHAT TO WATCH: What version of Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead do we see in this game? The Rebels hope it’s the version of Snead they saw in last season’s Cotton Bowl. It was a disappointing season all the way around for Snead, who threw an SEC-high 17 interceptions. Ole Miss needs him to take care of the ball in this game, and he also needs to have some success in hitting some passes down the field to keep Oklahoma State from loading up against McCluster and the Ole Miss running game.
WHY TO WATCH: Both of these teams started the season ranked in the Top 10 and had visions of making some noise on a national scene. As it turned out, neither team even made it to its respective conference championship game. So this is a chance for the Rebels and Cowboys to put a positive face on the season. For Ole Miss, it would be a second straight nine-win season. The last time the Rebels won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons was 1961 and 1962.
PREDICTION: The sour taste of that 41-27 loss to Mississippi State on the final weekend of the regular season has lingered for Ole Miss. This is a team that’s looked really good at times and really average at times. In the end, look for Tyrone Nix’s defense to bounce back from that poor outing in Starkville and take the Cowboys out of their game. Ole Miss 30, Oklahoma State 21.