By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Rebels have landed.
Or perhaps migrated.
Back in a bowl for the first time since 2009, Ole Miss arrived by bus New Years evening at the Sheraton hotel near the Civic Center, the team’s headquarters for the next several days as they continue preparation for the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Kickoff against Pittsburgh at Legion Field is at noon Saturday. It will be televised by ESPN.
The game’s late date in the bowl season provided for a non-traditional arrival. Usually players are returning from Christmas break and are left to find their own way to the bowl city. The Rebels had a week off for Christmas and returned to practice four days on campus before traveling on Tuesday.
Some players were allowed to drive based on their plans for immediately after the game. Those on the bus watched other SEC teams in bowl games.
“We enjoyed hanging out and watching those games. It kind of made the trip short,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “That’s what I would have been doing at home; most of us would have.”
Players and coaches will attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast this morning and will practice at 11 a.m., at Birmingham Southern College. They will work at BSC again on Thursday before a walk-through at Legion Field on Friday.
Pittsburgh is making its third-straight trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Panthers will stay at the Wynfrey in Hoover and practice at Hoover High School.
Ole Miss and Pitt have never met on the football field. Both teams are 6-6.
Freeze doesn’t expect a problem helping his players experiencing a bowl game for the first time balance focus and fun.
“We just want to be who we are. Our No. 1 rule is to protect our football team in all things,” he said. “Then we treat others the way we want to be treated. The whole thing with football to us, our philosophy, is that we enjoy it.”