7 things you should know before the Sugar Bowl kicks off
On New Year’s Day, No. 6-ranked Baylor will take on No. 8 Ole Miss in the Allstate Sugar Bowl (7:45 p.m. CT, ESPN). But before the two teams kick off, here are seven things you should know to impress friends at your watch party:
1. Sugar Bowl history — The Bears are headed to the Sugar Bowl for the second time in three years (but just the third time in program history). Baylor made its first Sugar Bowl appearance in 1957, when the Bears upset No. 2 Tennessee, 13-7. Two years ago, No. 7 Baylor lost to No. 5 Georgia, 26-14. Ole Miss is headed for its 10th Sugar Bowl appearance, the fourth-most of any team; the Rebels are 6-3 all-time.
2. Baylor/Ole Miss history — The Bears have faced the Rebels only once before, a 20-10 BU win in the 1975 season opener. Baylor was riding high, coming off the program’s first Southwest Conference championship in 50 years and the Miracle on the Brazos. In the first game of the ’75 season, the Bears ran up 407 yards of offense despite losing their starting quarterback to injury, beating an Ole Miss team that would go on to tie for second in the SEC.
3. History on the line — Head coach Dave Aranda’s team has tied the program record with 11 wins, matching the 2013, 2014 and 2019 teams; a win on Saturday would set a new high for wins at 12. Similarly, Ole Miss has also tied its program record at 10 wins (equalling the 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1971, 2003 and 2015 squads); a victory over BU would give the Rebels their first 11-win season.
4. Defense wins championships — Baylor is one of just three teams to not allow more than 30 points this season (joining Cincinnati and Clemson). The Bears’ defense has held opponents almost 12 points per game below their scoring averages in all other games. On the season, the Baylor defense led the Big 12 in turnovers forced, interceptions, and fewest passing TDs allowed, and second in the league in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
5. All-Americans on each side — The 18th consensus All-American in Baylor history, senior defensive back Jalen Pitre led the Big 12 in tackles for loss and is the nation’s only player to record at least three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in 2021. Offensive linemen Jacob Gall (FWAA) and Connor Galvin (AP) also earned all-America honors for the Bears. On the other side, Ole Miss defensive lineman Sam Williams earned all-America honors thanks to his 12.5 sacks, which rank fourth nationally and set a new program record.
6. Fourth-down success — Baylor has acquired a reputation this year for being aggressive on fourth down, and it has worked; the Bears rank No. 9 nationally with 22 fourth-down conversions (including eight times in their own territory), and BU ranks 17th nationally with a .667 fourth-down conversion percentage (22-of-33). Even more impressively, the 11 times BU has been stopped on fourth downs have led to just 17 points by opponents on their ensuing drives, while BU has turned the 22 fourth-down conversions into 86 points on those drives.
7. Success against the best — En route to this year’s Big 12 championship, the Bears tied another school record with four wins over ranked teams, matching the 1974 SWC champs. Headed into bowl season, Baylor was one of just four schools with four ranked wins this year, joining Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma State.
How will things shake out in the 2022 Sugar Bowl? We’ll find out on New Year’s Day!
Sic ’em, Baylor football!
[Three more related things… If you’re headed to the game, don’t forget the Sugar Bowl parade and Baylor pep rally on Dec. 31. If you can’t make it to New Orleans, check out a Baylor Alumni Watch Party near you. And no matter where you’re watching the game, show your support for Baylor football — #GeauxGold!]