Both Oklahoma State and Ole Miss see their presence in the Sugar Bowl as a benchmark in their programs’ ascension.
A little more than a year ago, the Cowboys’ streak of eight consecutive bowl appearances under coach Mike Gundy was in jeopardy until they won the regular-season finale against Oklahoma to end a five-game losing skid and become bowl-eligible.
That allowed them to go to the Cactus Bowl, where they beat Washington 30-22, a year after losing to Missouri 41-31 in the Cotton Bowl.
On Tuesday, offensive lineman Zachary Crabtree sported a Sugar Bowl sweatshirt as he told reporters about something one of the team’s assistant coaches said in a meeting.
“He said, ‘Five years from now, when you grab this hoodie and put it on and it has that Sugar Bowl patch on it, what are you going to remember?’ ” Crabtree said.
Then, Crabtree recalled his first two bowl appearances.
“You’ve got a Cactus Bowl shirt lying there, and you’ve got a Cotton Bowl shirt lying there,” he said. “I grab the Cactus Bowl shirt. We won that one. It turned this around and was a springboard into the offseason. It did a lot to boost us.”
This is Ole Miss’ second consecutive trip to a New Year’s Six bowl after a trip to the Peach Bowl last season. It also extends a streak of four consecutive bowl trips under coach Hugh Freeze, which began with a BBVA Compass Bowl game against Pittsburgh.
“We have come a very long way from being at the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans,” Rebels running back Jaylen Walton said. “It is a huge development and achievement for us.”
Perhaps the members of the OSU secondary should have voted for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver, earlier this month.
The Cowboys have already faced two of the finalists for the award in Baylor’s Corey Coleman (who won it) and TCU’s Josh Doctson.
They will face the third finalist Friday in Ole Miss junior Laquon Treadwell.
“I think we did well against the other two guys as far as the one-on-one matchups,” Cowboys cornerback Michael Hunter said. “Playing the position we play, it’s all about confidence. We have played some of the best in the country, so it’s going to be like another Friday. We’ll go out and try to be competitive and win our one-on-one battles.”
Treadwell, expected to be a first-round draft choice if he decides to turn pro after the Sugar Bowl, led the Southeastern Conference with 1,082 yards and was second with 76 receptions.
“He is a lot bigger than Corey Coleman and runs a lot better than Docston,” Hunter said, “so he is kind of a mix between both of those guys.”
The Allstate Sugar Bowl announced Tuesday a $100,000 donation to Teach For America in New Orleans, an amount that has been matched by the College Football Playoff Foundation.
Teach For America works with local communities to expand educational opportunities for children facing the challenges of poverty
“Every boy and girl,” said T. Carey Wicker III, president of the Sugar Bowl committee, “regardless of economics, deserves the opportunity to have an educational environment that gives them every chance to succeed.”
Jason Jones is in his third season at Ole Miss, where he serves as the Rebels’ co–defensive coordinator. Before that, he spent five seasons as an assistant at OSU.
So how much has his experience with the Cowboys helped Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack in preparation for Friday’s game?
“I mean, a little bit about some of the personnel, but it has been a while you know; this is his third year here,” Wommack said. “The film tells the truth.”