Indiana is looking to make the most of its second straight bowl trip to Florida when it faces Ole Miss at the Outback Bowl in Tampa on Jan. 2.
The Hoosiers, No. 11 in the CFP rankings, were spurned from a New Year’s Six Bowl bid in the Fiesta Bowl based on Iowa State being ranked one spot ahead of them. Indiana (6-1) posted its most Big Ten wins since 1987 and its highest AP ranking (No. 7) since 1968.
“It’s another chip on our shoulder,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “Something to go out and prove.”
Indiana hasn’t won a bowl game since 1991, a string of five straight bowl losses. Last year, at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the Hoosiers let a 13-point lead slip away in the final five minutes in a 23-22 loss to Tennessee.
The game will be a homecoming for 10 Indiana players from the Tampa Bay area, including All-Big Ten linebacker Micah McFadden (Tampa Plant HS), All-Big Ten wide receiver Whop Philyor (Tampa Plant) and All-Big Ten safety Jamar Johnson (Sarasota-Riverview).
Allen, too, has Tampa ties, having started his high school coaching career there and serving a one-year stint as defensive coordinator at USF in 2015.
Quarterback Jack Tuttle will make his second career start for the Hoosiers after passing for 140 yards and two TDs in Indiana’s 14-6 win over Wisconsin on Dec. 5. Indiana had its final two games of the season canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team that involved 28 players and coaches.
Ole Miss (4-5), under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, was among the best offenses in the SEC this season, ranking first in the conference in rushing (217.67 yards per game), third in scoring (40.7 points per game) and third in passing (344.8 yards per game).
“The big play is definitely a huge emphasis for them,” Allen said. “They live off those. The deceiving part is that they also rush for 220 yards per game.”
Ole Miss will be playing in its first bowl game since the 2016 Sugar Bowl, a game in which it beat Oklahoma State 48-20.
The Rebels are led by starting quarterback Matt Corral, who has passed for 2,995 yards with 27 TDs and 14 interceptions on the season. But Corral will be without two of his top targets for the second straight game, as wide receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah opted out for the NFL draft.
Without both standout receiving threats, Corral struggled in his last start, throwing five interceptions in a 53-48 loss against LSU.
“It was not an effort issue that’s for sure,” Kiffin said. “It was just decision making and I didn’t think we called a great game. I don’t think we put him in the best spots at times.”
It won’t get any easier for Corral facing an Indiana defense that leads the nation with 17 interceptions.
“It should be good for our players to get motivated that you’re playing a great team,” Kiffin said. “Statistically, they have special things.”
–Field Level Media
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