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Magnolia Tribune 2023 Peach Bowl...

Magnolia Tribune 2023 Peach Bowl Report: Coaches’ Press Conference

By: Brad Logan - December 29, 2023

Center: Lane Kiffin and James Franklin share the stage ahead of the 2023 Peach Bowl between Ole Miss and Penn State

The stage is set for the 2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta between Ole Miss Football and Penn State Football – the first ever meeting of the two storied programs.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Penn State head coach James Franklin met with the media Friday morning, the day before the two teams meet in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl inside Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“This has been a great week. Our players and staff have had a blast, so many neat events. So we thank everybody for putting those on,” Kiffin said.

This is beginning to be old hat for Kiffin, as the Rebels have seen new heights under his direction. The No. 11 Rebels, (10-2, 6-2 SEC), are just two years removed from the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, another New Year’s Six bowl. 

Should the twelve team playoff be this year, Ole Miss would be in the field. As for Kiffin, he likes where his program is currently.

“It’s been a really exciting season for us, probably some similarities with two losses to two of the elite teams in college football,” Kiffin said. “For us to be in a position in our program, having never won 11 games is really amazing for these players. Especially to me the way we built our team, whether it’s right or wrong, is very heavy through the portal. So a lot of new players. So I commend our coaches and our players of coming together. That’s not very easy.”

Brett Norsworthy, who is the pregame host on the Ole Miss Radio Network, notes that when Lane Kiffin was hired at Ole Miss by Director of Athletics Keith Carter, Kiffin said, ”We didn’t come here to be good, we came here to be great.”

Ask any Ole Miss fan, those “great” times are currently happening.

“Kiffin wanted us to raise our expectations and we have. He’s got us (Ole Miss) believing and why wouldn’t we?” Norsworthy said. 

The Rebels, while the records are similar to Penn State’s, the styles of offense are not. Kiffin knows that quarterback Drew Allar, who some say is similar to Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson, will be tough to handle. 

“I think he does a phenomenal job of taking care of the ball, first off, and commanding the offense, getting the ball in the right place. When it is not there, breaks it down, does a great job of vertical scrambling and making plays and moving the sticks,” Kiffin said.

As for the high powered offense of Ole Miss, under the direction of QB Jaxson Dart, Franklin knows his top-ranked defense will be challenged. 

“Jaxson (Dart) and Ole Miss, I think the thing that jumps out from my perspective is balance. And a lot of times when you talk about balance, people think you’re talking about running the ball 50 percent of the time and throwing the ball 50 percent of the time. And the reality is they have done that too,” Franklin said.

Ole Miss will be depending on running back Quinshon Judkins to carry the load in the backfield. One of only eight RB’s in college football history to rush for over 1,000 yards in both their freshman and sophomore season, Judkins ranks fifth all-time among SEC rushers in yards through his freshman and sophomore seasons with 2,619.

“I think maybe their perception of Lane (Kiffin) and Ole Miss is throwing the ball all over the field, but their running back is a challenge,” Franklin said. “And I think they do a great job of running the ball and running into advantageous looks.”

Ole Miss and Penn State kickoff at Noon ET on ESPN.

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