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The first thing that pops up on the Ole Miss website is the headline, “Party in the Big Easy” in the fluorescent light of Bourbon Street next to a saxophone.
The No. 8 Rebels (10-2, 6-2 SEC) are scheduled to play in the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 1 against No. 7 Baylor (11-2, 7-2 Big 12) at 7:45 p.m. central time.
Ole Miss, which has 10 regular season wins for the first time in history, is Sugar Bowl bound for just the second time since the 1970 season when quarterback Archie Manning led the Rebels to a 27-22 win over Arkansas. And New Orleans, where Manning has lived since become a New Orleans Saint in 1971, is just a five-hour drive from the Ole Miss campus in Oxford.
A sellout is expected and New Orleans hotels are nearing 100 percent occupancy for the first Saturday night Sugar Bowl in nearly 30 years.
But the party will not start on Dec. 26 as first planned because of COVID-19 variant Omicron concerns that just exited Texas A&M from the Gator Bowl on Wednesday.
The Rebels were scheduled to have a team arrival press conference and a practice in New Orleans on the day after Christmas, but the team will now practice on campus in Oxford on Dec. 26. Ole Miss’ arrival in New Orleans has not been set yet, but that could be as late as Dec. 30.
“That date and othe travel details are still being finalized,” the school released in a statement. “While our program is in a good place from a health standpoint, our medical staff will continue to monitor our team to guard against concerns related to COVID-19.”
The New Year’s Eve parade scheduled for 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 in downtown New Orleans and the Tailgate Town event scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 1 in Champions Square next to the Superdome are up in the air at the moment.
A Sugar Bowl spokesman said Thursday morning that the bowl hoped to finalize team arrivals and other events later Thursday and that Baylor had not yet made any schedule changes. Press conferences are expected to be virtual and not in person.
“The team schedule has been adjusted to ensure the safest possible experience for the student-athletes and staff,” Ole Miss’ statement said.
“We’re holding our breath to see what happens,” Sugar Bowl director Jeff Hundley said. “But we’re confident that we will get the game played.”