Peach Bowl boasts playoff-caliber matchup between No. 10 Penn State and No. 11 Ole Miss

Fri, Dec 29, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)

Peach Bowl boasts playoff-caliber matchup between No. 10 Penn State and No. 11 Ole Miss

ATLANTA (AP) - The Peach Bowl matchup of No. 10 Penn State and No. 11 Mississippi would be a good pairing in the 2024 debut of a 12-team playoff.

For now, the goal is building momentum for a run at next year's national championship. And even without playoff drama, the showdown between the Nittany Lions' top-ranked defense and the up-tempo Rebels offense led by quarterback Jaxson Dart help make Saturday's game an attractive sellout.

Ole Miss (10-2) hopes to complete the first 11-win season in school history.

"It will never be forgotten, getting that 11th win, something that has never been done in program history," said Rebels wide receiver Jordan Watkins. "It's been a great motivating factor for us, and I think it will take a lot of momentum going into next season."

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Penn State (10-2) is making its first Peach Bowl appearance, and coach James Franklin is motivated to complete the program's collection of New Year's Six bowl victories.

COORDINATING MYSTERY

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said changes on the Penn State staff have created new worries for his plans. Former Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was hired as Duke's head coach. Assistants Anthony Poindexter and Robb Smith are co-coordinators for the bowl game while Franklin's hire as the 2024 coordinator, former Indiana coach Tom Allen, observes.

Andy Kotelnicki has been hired as Penn State's new offensive coordinator, but assistants Ja'Quan Seider and Ty Howle will work in their third game as co-coordinators.

"We don't have any idea what they're going to do," Kiffin said Tuesday.

OPT-OUTS

The decisions by Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson and Ole Miss defensive end Cedric Johnson to skip the game and prepare for the NFL draft were announced before the teams traveled to Atlanta. Franklin confirmed on Friday that senior cornerback Johnny Dixon is not with the team.

Franklin worked out agreements with others, including cornerback Kalen King and defensive end Adisa Isaac, who have announced draft plans or are expected to enter the draft, to stay with the team through the bowl.

REBELS WITH A PAUSE

Dart and running back Quinshon Judkins on Thursday wouldn't commit to playing for Ole Miss in 2024.

Dart, a junior, could still enter the NFL draft. Judkins, a sophomore, could entertain interest in the transfer portal. Either decision could have a big impact on the Rebels' outlook.

When asked Thursday if he'd made a decision about his future, Dart said "Honestly, not too worried about it right now. Just focused on the bowl game and focused on my preparation and doing my job to help put my team in the best situation to win and help make history here."

Judkins said he is "just focused on this bowl game, just going out with my guys."

HALL OF FAMER

A visit to the College Football Hall of Fame near Mercedes-Benz Stadium gave Penn State players a chance to appreciate the college career of Poindexter, who was inducted in 2020 for his exploits as a safety at Virginia in the late 1990s.

"It was special because I got to go with our team," Poindexter said. "I don't know if they really thought I could play or not. I really don't tell them. So maybe now they'll think I can play a little bit."

SEC COUNTRY

Franklin, the former Vanderbilt coach, has played up the opportunity for his Big Ten team against a Southeastern Conference team.

"We're excited we're in SEC territory," said Penn State running back Nicholas Singleton. "Coach Franklin always preaches about that. But we're ready."

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CHARLES ODUM I cover Atlanta pro sports and college sports in Georgia. twitter mailto "
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