NEW ORLEANS — No. 6 Baylor, fresh off its Big 12 championships, and No. 8 Mississippi, which finished second behind Alabama in the SEC West, will conclude their seasons against one another in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Baylor (11-2, 7-2 Big 12, CFP No. 7) on Saturday held off Oklahoma State, literally by inches, for a 21-16 victory over Oklahoma State when Bears safety Jairon McVea knocked Dezmon Jackson out of bounds just short of reaching the pylon with 24 seconds on a fourth-down play in the final minute.
Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2, CFP No. 9) concluded its regular season with a 31-21 victory over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night for its first 10-win regular season in program history and now will return to the Sugar Bowl for the second time in five years after not previously appearing the game since a 27-23 Archie Manning-led victory over No.3 ranked Arkansas on New Year’s Day, 1970.
Following the 2015 season, Ole Miss rolled to a 48-20 Sugar Bowl triumph over Oklahoma State.
Baylor is making its third all-time appearance in the Sugar Bowl but also the second time in three seasons. The Bears lost to Georgia 26-14 in what was then-Baylor coach Matt Rhule’s last game before he left for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL.
Under current agreements, the Sugar Bowl hosts the best SEC and Big 12 teams that are not in the four-team College Football Playoff, unless the Sugar Bowl hosts a CFP semifinal game. This season, no Big 12 team was selected for the playoff, while two SEC teams — No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia — both made it into the semifinals.
Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley hailed the match-up of Top 10 teams.
“Both teams have excelled behind the leadership of second-year coaches, who have lifted their programs to great heights,” Hundley said, referring to Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin and Baylor’s Dave Aranda. “We’ve had each of these teams in recent years and know first-hand about the passion of their outstanding fan bases.”
This will just be the second all-time meeting between Baylor and Ole Miss, who last faced each other on September 6, 1975, when the Bears beat the visiting Rebels, 20-10.
Baylor, which defeated Oklahoma State, 21-16, to win its third Big 12 title in the last nine years, has won 11 games for just the third time in history. Four of those wins came against Top-25 opponents. Saturday’s victory marked the 12th time this season that the Bears held an opponent below its scoring average. They rank No. 14 in the country with 19.15 points allowed per game.
Current SEC members are 37-43-1 all-time in the Sugar Bowl. Current Big 12 members are 14-9.
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