What bowl game will Ole Miss football make? Here are the projections

David Eckert
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

OXFORD — Ole Miss football's bowl future is beginning to look more clear.

Many of the experts agree that the Rebels' most likely destination is the Citrus Bowl following their 30-24 loss to Alabama last week.

With the Rebels (8-2, 4-2 SEC) now preparing for a matchup with Arkansas (5-5, 2-4) on Saturday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network), here's a look at the full bowl picture with input from various prognosticators.

Citrus Bowl: Orlando, Florida, on Jan. 2

Who said it: Brett McMurphy (Action Network), Jerry Palm (CBS Sports), Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach (ESPN)

The Citrus Bowl is by far the most common choice for Ole Miss bowl destinations among the experts, and that would mean a first for the Rebels, who have never played in that bowl game before. This is the top SEC bowl tie-in outside of the New Year's Six bowl games and the College Football Playoff.

If the Citrus Bowl is indeed where coach Lane Kiffin and company end up, a Big Ten foe would likely await. Among the possible opponents are Illinois, Purdue and Penn State.

The Rebels have never played the Nittany Lions or Fighting Illini. Their only previous matchup with Purdue came in 1929, when the Boilermakers won 27-7.

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ReliaQuest Bowl: Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 2

Who said it: Erick Smith (USA TODAY)

You won't find many dissenting prognostications.

Smith offered one, dropping the Rebels one step further down the bowl totem pole to make a trip to Tampa on Jan. 2. A key tenant of this projection would be only one team from the SEC making the College Football Playoff, which knocks every other bowl-eligible team from the conference down one level on the bowl priority chart.

This outcome would also involve playing a Big Ten team. Smith projects that Ole Miss would play Illinois in this scenario.

The Rebels played in this contest — known previously as the Outback Bowl — in 2021, topping Indiana.

Is there room for upward movement?

Any scenario that would see Ole Miss play in a New Year's Six bowl game became pretty convoluted following its loss to Alabama.

That defeat moved the Rebels firmly into the fifth slot in the SEC priority list, and they'll need quite a bit of help to move up having lost to both Alabama and LSU — the two teams immediately above them in the SEC hierarchy.

Tennessee making the College Football Playoff would give the Rebels a last-second Hail Mary of sorts at the Cotton Bowl. They'd need to be the highest-ranked Power 5 team not already assigned to the playoffs or the New Year's Six for that.

Tennessee making the playoff and disaster striking Alabama and LSU — or both — would also open the door. Both of those teams have one SEC game remaining on their schedule, while LSU will play UAB and Alabama will host Austin Peay. Maybe an LSU defeat at Texas A&M and an obliteration at the hands of Georgia in the SEC Championship game would get that done.

If Ole Miss finishes ranked higher than either the Crimson Tide or the Tigers, the Orange Bowl would be in play if Tennessee makes the field of four. Penn State would also likely need to lose one of its final two games to make that happen.

In short: A New Year's Six trip is unlikely, but not entirely off the table if chaos ensues.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at deckert@gannett.com or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.