Music City Bowl: Mississippi vs. West Virginia

Mel Kiper's archive: reviews, notebooks

Wednesday, December 27

Deuce in way of Nehlen's last hurrah

Music City Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 28 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
West Virginia (6-5) vs. Mississippi (7-4)

After an injury-plagued senior campaign, super blue-chip running back Deuce McAllister will be looking to end his brilliant college career at Ole Miss with a stellar performance against West Virginia.

McAllister has been my No. 1 senior prospect on the draft board the entire year, even though things didn't go the way McAllister had hoped from a health standpoint. His teammates will be doing everything in their power to ensure that his final game in a Rebel uniform ends in a victory.

The same is true for senior quarterback Romaro Miller, who will also be winding up an outstanding career. The Rebels had their share of ups and downs this season, due primarily to McAllister's injury situation as well as a defense that struggled during the second half of the season. The opposition had little trouble moving the ball against the Rebels' overmatched defense. In fact, over the latter portion of the season, the Rebels' defense allowed the opposition to score 30 or more points in four of the last six games.

For West Virginia, outstanding head coach Don Nehlen will lead the Mountaineers into battle for the final time. Nehlen ranks with the greatest coaches in college football history. That's why emotion should run high on the West Virginia sideline.

Offensively, watch out for sophomore running back Avon Cobourne. He's quite a football player. Overall, the Mountaineer offense had no problem scoring points this season. In nine of 11 games, they were able to score 27 or more points. Amazingly, they were able to accomplish this with an unstable situation at quarterback because starting QB Brad Lewis had some injury problems. The problem at West Virginia was subpar defensive play. The Mountaineers allowed 47 points to Miami (Fla), 48 to Virginia Tech, 42 to Notre Dame, 31 to Syracuse, and 38 to Pittsburgh.

In order for West Virginia to send Nehlen out with a victory, Cobourne needs to post 150-plus rushing yards. This would shorten the game, while allowing the questionable Mountaineer defense an opportunity to remain fresh the entire way. Otherwise, Ole Miss will mix things up with Miller and McAllister, then just pin their ears back knowing that West Virginia will have to air things out in order to keep pace.

With super blue-chip cornerback Ken Lucas playing at such a high level for Ole Miss, exchanging points with the Rebels' passing game doesn't figure to be a formula for success for the Mountaineers.

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