I am not in the locker rooms of these teams, obviously, but my guess is that the Sugar Bowl is not where anyone on either side was hoping to end up. Ole Miss got a huge upset win at Alabama in Week 3 and probably thought that they were national contenders, But then two weeks later they were blown out at Florida, then lost a stunner at Memphis two weeks after that, and then lost a shootout to Arkansas for good measure. Suddenly a very promising season turned into a very frustrating one. Oklahoma State was able to maintain their dream even longer - they opened their season 10-0. Consecutive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma to close out the season - both at home, no less - soundly ended their dreams of postseason glory and stuck them in this also-ran bowl game.
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Both teams could use their fates as an excuse to feel sorry for themselves and not play at their best in this one. Psychological analysis, then, needs to be a bigger than usual part in handicapping this game.
Sugar Bowl Betting Storylines
Ole Miss is going to be without one of their stars on defense for this game. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche has been suspended after he fell out of a window, was briefly hospitalized, and was subsequently charged with marijuana possession. It was an odd story and one that is sure to be a distraction. Nkemdiche went on to apologize publicly and at the same time confirm what was long suspected - that he would leave school early for the draft.
Oklahoma State will be crossing their fingers and toes leading up to the game on the injury front. They have a couple of receiving threats - a tight end and a fullback - who are banged up and questionable, though both are expected to be available. Of more concern is the fact that QB Mason Rudolph started off bowl practices wearing a walking boot on his right foot. The team has given no indication that he could be unavailable, but for a guy who is as important to the offense as Rudolph is, a foot injury is a major concern. The good news, I guess, is that he is far from a mobile quarterback - he has a season rushing total of -12 yards on 62 attempts - so if the foot isn't at 100 percent that isn't the problem that it would be for some players.
In a lot of ways these teams are actually quite similar. Both have Top-13 scoring offenses. In both cases that success comes through the air - they are both well above average passing teams with exceptional receiving corps, but both are much weaker on the run. The Rebels are an average running team - ranked 55th in the country in yards gained. Oklahoma State is much worse, coming in at 109th. Neither team spends a lot of time focusing on defense - Ole Miss isn't particularly good when they don't have the ball, and Oklahoma State is just downright bad. Both are a little better against the pass than the run - something that won't help them in this one. This is, in many ways, a battle of strength against strength and weakness against weakness. It's going to come down to execution and coaching. The challenge of handicapping this game, then, is that I find it tough to give either team a real edge on that front.
Sugar Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Ole Miss favored by 6.5 points, and that has shifted to the key number of seven. Almost two-thirds of bets have been on the Rebels, so the line movement is as expected. The total sits at 67.
The Rebels are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games played in January and 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games played on a Friday. The Cowboys have gone over the total in their last five games played on fieldturf. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site games. The Rebels are even better at neutral sites - 6-1-1 ATS.
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss Sugar Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I don't trust either team, really, so it's a tough game to call. I don't see a whole lot to separate them, though - either team could win if they showed up and had a strong day. Given that, the thing to do is to take the points. There are a lot of points to take here, too. Giving the Cowboys a seven-point head start seems like too much, which means that there could be some nice value in betting on them. The Cowboys are the play.
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