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Peach Bowl - Penn State vs. Ole Miss


Peach Bowl 2023

Nittany Lions of the Big Ten & Rebels of the SEC meet for the first time in NY6 Showdown


Broadcast Information:

• Kickoff: 12/30/2023 - 12:00 PM EST - Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

• TV: ESPN - Mark Jones (PxP), Louis Reddick (Analyst), Quint Kessenich (Sideline)



What’s at Stake?

Penn State is looking to make history as the first program to win all six New Year’s 6 bowl games. The Nittany Lions will be making their 26th appearance in a New Year’s 6 bowl and have a 17-7-1 record.


This is the Nittany Lion's first-ever appearance in the Peach Bowl and against Ole Miss. 


Lane Kiffin has guided Ole Miss to the third most wins in the SEC trailing Georgia and Alabama since Kiffin arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, and is seeking his first New Year’s Six bowl win as a head coach.


Kiffin is 0-2 in his previous two New Year’s Six bowl appearances: 2009 Peach Bowl loss to Virginia Tech and 2022 Sugar Bowl loss to Baylor.


Penn State head coach James Franklin is one of five active coaches with at least three New Year’s Six bowl wins: Nick Saban (Alabama), Mack Brown (North Carolina), Kirby Smart (Georgia), and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).


Peach Bowl Opt-Outs

Ole Miss

  • Caden Costa, K (Transfer portal)

  • Rayf Vinson, S (Transfer portal)

  • Kyirin Heath, TE (Transfer portal)

  • Isheem Young, S (Transfer portal)

Penn State

  • Cristian Driver, RB (Transfer portal)

  • Alex Bacchetta, DT (Transfer portal)

  • Chop Robinson, DL (NFL Draft)


Key Players - Penn State

  • Olumuyiwa Fashanu, T

  • Nicholas Singleton & Kaytron Allen, RB

  • Abdul Carter, LB

  • Kalen King, CB


Key Players - Ole Miss

  • Quinshon Judkins, RB

  • Jaxson Dart, QB

  • Trey Washington, S

  • Khari Coleman, LB



Key Match-ups

The Nittany Lions enter the matchup minus both their coordinators.


Mike Yurcich was relieved following the Michigan game, and Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle have shared the play-calling duties.


With Andy Kotelnicki joining the Nittany Lions from Kansas, he will still be assessing talent. Over the last three seasons, Kotelnicki's Kansas offense has been explosive, ranking 12th in the country in 20+ yard plays (8.3%), 15th in 30+ yard plays (3.89%) and 11th in 40+ yard plays (2.12%) during that span.


Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz accepted the Duke head coaching position but left behind one of the more historic Nittany Lion defenses in school history. 


Replacing Diaz is former Indiana head coach Tom Allen, who was Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2020 and like Kotelnicki will be scouting his team as Anthony Poindexter will be coordinating the defense for the Nittany Lions in the Peach Bowl.


Allen inherited a defense that allowed only 223.2 yards per game, which led the nation and is the fewest yards allowed  per game since the 2011 Alabama defense


The Nittany Lions finished the regular season leading the country in first downs allowed (151), yards per play (3.91), and sacks per game (4.0).  Penn State also ranks second in the nation in rushing defense (69.7) and tackles for loss per game (8.4) and third in pass defense (153.6), scoring defense (11.4), total tackles for loss (101), and fumbles recovered (12).


The 2023 Penn State defense set school records for sacks in a season with 48 sacks and looks to continue to add to that record. They will be minus EDGE Chop Robinson, the only significant bowl opt-out between the teams. Penn State had missed Robinson due to injury during the season and turned to Dani Dennis-Sutton, a former five-star recruit, to replace Robinson. 


Offensively, Penn State rebounded following the Michigan game defeating Rutgers and Michigan State by a combined score of 69-6 and averaged 454 yards of total offense. 


What to watch for the Nittany Lions is how much tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu will play. Fashanu is projected to be a Top 10 pick and be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2024 NFL Draft, of any historical precedents Franklin has, Fashanu will see limited reps. 


The Nittany Lion's offense is generated by what dynamic running back duo Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen perform. Though the duo had minor regression from their fabulous freshman seasons, the duo still gained 1,856 yards from scrimmage and had 16 total touchdowns. 


While the Nittany Lions have a dynamic duo, Ole Miss has a sophomore sensation of their own in running back Quinshon Judkins. Judkins achieved his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and has the fifth most rushing yards through a freshman and sophomore season in SEC history trailing only Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno, Leonard Fournette from LSU, and Darren McFadden from Arkansas. 


At the quarterback position, Jaxson Dart has continued to engineer the potent Ole Miss offense. 

Dart is fourth amongst SEC quarterbacks at 280 yards per game of total offense and has 27 total touchdowns on the season.


If Dart can get 11 rushing yards he will become the third Ole Miss quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards (John Fourcade (1978-81) and Matt Corral (2018-21)).


Ole Miss heads into bowl season with the SEC’s No. 3 offense at 455.4 yards per game (FBS No. 15) and the conference’s No. 4 scoring offense at 34.8 points per game (FBS No. 19). Impressively, the Rebels have done so against strong competition through 11 games, holding the 13th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation.

 

Since Kiffin’s arrival to The Grove in 2020, Ole Miss is second nationally in total offense at 497.4 yards per game. 


Defensively, the Rebels are strong at the safety position anchored by Trey Washington, who leads Ole Miss in tackles. Washington has won SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season after big games vs. Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.


Linebacker Khari Coleman, who anchors the Landshark front seven on defense, ranks second in the SEC and Top 20 nationally in active career tackles for loss (31.0).



Prediction - Peach Bowl

Dart has had plenty of targets in the passing game, the trio of Jordan Watkins (53 rec., 741 yards, 3 TD), Dayton Wade (52 rec., 769 yards, 4 TD), and Tre Harris (47 rec., 851 yards, 8 TD) provide plenty of offensive spark for the Rebels.


Penn State’s deep secondary will get tested and will need their elite pass rush to force Dart to be off-target. 


If Judkins has any success on the ground against a Penn State defense that has only given up 69.7 yards per game on the ground, that will help Dart on play action.


The Nittany Lion offense can ill afford to take a half to show up. While Ole Miss doesn’t have an elite defense like Penn State, their defensive speed can cause problems for Penn State. 


How Penn State performs at the wide receiver position outside of wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith is key. 


Look for Penn State quarterback Drew Allar to get chemistry early with tight end duo Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren early in the game. 


If they can stretch the “Landshark defense” look for Singleton and Allen to get going. 

Ultimately Penn State is a more experienced team in this setting than Ole Miss, it knows how to win these games, and they should escape Atlanta with another 11-win campaign.


Score

Penn State 31 - Ole Miss 26


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