For a second consecutive bowl season, Penn State will meet a 10-win Power 5 team it has never played before.

The No. 10 Nittany Lions (10-2) will face No. 11 Ole Miss (10-2) in the Peach Bowl at noon Dec. 30 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

In many ways, the Rebels are the SEC version of Penn State this season, beating the teams they were supposed to beat but falling to their league’s heavyweights. Now, the teams will battle with a top-10 finish on the line.

It should be a fun trip and a good challenge for those Lions who play. Penn State will compete in the Peach Bowl for the first time in the game’s 55-year history, giving the Lions a chance to become the 1st program to post wins in all 6 of the top major bowls — Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach. The players will also be playing for the first time at state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz, home of the NFL’s Falcons, the SEC football title game and other major sporting events. The retractable-roof stadium that opened in 2017 is one of the premier modern cathedrals for football.

Penn State (-2.5 in early betting lines) should have a good shot to topple the Rebels just as it did the Utah Utes last year in the Rose Bowl to finish 11-2 and No. 7 in the final AP poll.

Here are 5 things to know about the Rebels:

Lots of history

The University of Mississippi has been playing football since way before the school got Ole. The game was first played in Oxford in 1893.

The Rebels often have been a tough out since joining the SEC in 1933, but in modern times haven’t been able to break through to the league’s upper echelon. The program has 1 shared national title (1960, with Minnesota) and the last of its 6 SEC crowns was claimed in 1963.

At 24-15 in bowl games, Ole Miss matches Penn State’s postseason winning percentage (31-19-2, .615).

Lane Kiffin has some history

Kiffin may be best known for occasionally drawing the ire of Nick Saban while serving as offensive coordinator for Alabama (2014-16). But he’s also had 4 stops as a head coach: Tennessee (2009), USC (2010-13), Florida Atlantic (2017-19), Ole Miss (2020-present). His Rebels have gone 28-10 since going 5-5 in 2020’s shortened season. Overall in 12 years, he’s 95-49 for a .660 winning rate. Like James Franklin (112-63, .679), he’s had at least 2 losses every year as a head coach.

How the Rebels got here

Like Penn State, Ole Miss couldn’t hang with the heavyweights of its conference, losing road games at Alabama (24-10) and Georgia (52-17). Its best win came in late September, a week after the loss to the Tide, when the Rebels outscored then No. 13 LSU and Heisman finalist Jayden Daniels 55-49. The only other win over a ranked team came in Week 2, 37-20 over No. 24 Tulane.

At 6-2 in league play with a win over LSU, Ole Miss finished 2nd in the SEC West behind Alabama.

Offensive firepower

Junior QB Jaxson Dart, a 4-star recruit who played in 6 games as a USC freshman in 2021, leads a strong and balanced offense.

Dart, assuming he plays, will go over 3,000 passing yards with just 15 vs. the Lions. The 6-2, 220-pound 2nd-year Rebel is completing 65.4% of his throws with 20 TDs and 5 interceptions. In the shootout vs. LSU, he threw for 389 yards and 4 TDs, and ran for another 50 yards and a score. Dart has 3 receivers with at least 47 catches and more than 740 yards, led by junior La. Tech transfer Tre Harris (47-851-8).

The Rebels also have a solid ground game, led by Quinshon Judkins (1,052 yards, 4.4 per carry, 15 TDs). Judkins also has 21 receptions.

Overall, the Rebels rank 3rd in the SEC in total offense (455.4 ypg), 4th in rushing (178.8) and 4th in passing (276.6). They score 33.8 ppg, 4th best in the SEC. In short, Manny Diaz and the nation’s best total defense have a challenge on their hands.

Not as good on defense

Ole Miss ranks just 10th in the SEC in total defense (371.9 ypg) and 6th in points allowed (22.3).

Penn State’s evolving offense should be able to attack the rebels equally well on the ground and through the air. That said, the Rebels have only given up more than 24 points in 3 of their 12 games.

Bottom line

This game should prove which league’s No. 3 team is more legit, and maybe which one has the brighter outlook for 2024. Of course, much will change before next fall, including the size of both the Big Ten and SEC.

Give me Penn State and its strong sophomore class to make a forward statement and gain some regional pride for the B1G. Diaz’s defense trumps Kiffin’s offense.

Penn State 41, Ole Miss 17