More bowls than ever; 64 teams can go

The Ole Miss Rebels have gone bowling 31 times counting their first "bowl" appearance on Jan. 1, 1936, in the Orange Bowl in Miami. This year, as usual, the Rebels will be trying to win games to qualify for a bowl bid. It takes at least six.

When Ole Miss went to 15 straight bowl games from the late 1950s through the early '70s to set a national record for appearances, there were only as many as eight or nine bowls in business even at the end of that string of impressive success.

The Rose, Sugar, Cotton, and Orange were the big bowls, followed by the Gator, Sun, Liberty, Peach, and Bluebonnet (replaced with the current Texas Bowl in Houston). And that was about it.

The Rebels played in every one of them at least once during that stretch except the Orange, which Ole Miss hasn't played in since 1936, and the Rose, which UM has never appeared in.

While it was impressive to go to that many consecutive bowls since there were so few bowl games being played, today there are a lot more opportunities. With so many tie-ins, SEC members still only have seven assured spots, but that's after placing one or perhaps two teams in BCS bowls.

The tie-ins are Capital One (Orlando), Outback (Tampa), AT&T Cotton (Dallas), Chick-Fil-A (Atlanta), Gaylord Hotels Music City (Nashville), Independence (Shreveport), and the new kid back on the SEC block, the AutoZone Liberty (Memphis).

So if two SEC teams get selected to BCS Bowls (Allstate Sugar in New Orleans, Capital One Rose presented by Citi in Pasadena, FedEx Orange in Miami, and Tostitos Fiesta in Phoenix), as many as nine SEC teams are assured bowl spots as long as they win enough games to qualify.

The NCAA has sanctioned 32 bowls for this season. So 64 teams will play in the Division I-A postseason. It takes at least six wins to qualify for a bowl game.

Bowls are obviously no longer just located in places like Florida, Texas, and California. They stretch from coast to coast, from south to north, and this year even into Canada. The city of Toronto will host the International Bowl with a team from the Big East playing a team from the Mid-American Conference.

Ole Miss last bowled on Jan. 2, 2004, when the Rebels beat Oklahoma State 31-28 to cap a 10-win season for the first time since 1971. Ironically that 1971 season was the last in the run of 15 straight bowl years.

Ole Miss' 19 bowl victories ranks the Rebels in a tie with Florida State for 10th place nationally. Within the SEC, 19 wins is fourth all-time behind Alabama with 30, Tennessee with 24, and Georgia with 22.

With 31 bowl games, Ole Miss is all alone in 17th place nationally in appearances. That's only good for eighth place within the SEC, however, as ahead of Ole Miss are Alabama (53), Tennessee (45), Georgia (41), LSU (37), Arkansas (34), Florida (33), and Auburn (32).

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