Ole Miss is bowling for the first time in three years, with the Rebels headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl, as announced on Sunday.
By: Ben Garrett, Ole Miss Spirit Reporter
The Rebels finished the year 6-6 overall and 3-5 in Southeastern Conference games, becoming bowl eligible with a 41-24 win in their final regular season game against in-state rival Mississippi State.
“This is an exciting time,” Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said. “We’re excited to be playing, whether it’s Birmingham or Alaska. We know Rebel nation will respond accordingly.”
The BBVA Compass Bowl, held at Legions Field in Birmingham, Ala., is set for Jan. 5 at 12 p.m. CST, according to the bowl’s official site. Ole Miss will face Pittsburgh, who was 6-6 overall and 3-4 in Big East play this season.
The Panthers, like Ole Miss, had a handful of near-miss losses, including a three-overtime loss to No. 1 Notre Dame. The Irish and SEC winner and BCS No. 2 Alabama will meet for a BCS national championship two days after the conclusion of the Compass Bowl.
Pittsburgh finished the regular season with back-to-back runaway wins. The Panthers upended Rutgers, 27-6, before concluding the regular season with a 27-3 win against USF. Pittsburgh appeared in each of the last two Compass Bowls, most recently losing to SMU, 28-6, in January of this year.
Ole Miss was in contention for the Compass Bowl, as well as the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. “Ole Miss is a team people want in their bowl game,” Bjork said.
However, on selection Sunday, the Music City Bowl opted for hometown Vanderbilt. The Commodores were 8-4 in 2012, with a one-point win over Ole Miss in Oxford.
Had the Gator Bowl selected Vanderbilt instead of Mississippi State, Ole Miss was in better position for a possible Music City Bowl invite.
But Northwestern, an early-season opponent of Vanderbilt, was taken by the Gator, pushing the Commodores to the Music City and sending Mississippi State to Jacksonville. The Compass Bowl held priority over the Liberty.
“As we grow the program, we’re going to be attractive (to bowls) for years to come,” Bjork said.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze engineered a four-win turnaround in his first season in Oxford, turning a 2-10 team in 2011 into a bowl-eligible group with wins over, among others, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State. Ole Miss lost to Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU by a combined seven points.
Ole Miss will be making its 34th bowl appearance in school history in Birmingham. Ole Miss has 21 bowl wins to its credit, with four-straight bowl wins. The Rebels won back-to-back Cotton Bowls in 2009 and 2010. Ole Miss ranks 13th nationally in all-time bowl wins.
This will be the Rebels first appearance in the Compass Bowl, established in 2006.