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Updated: Friday, December 27, 2002 9:47 AM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL PREVIEW
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Nebraska (7-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6) Independence
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
Nebraska Cornhuskers
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OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss Rebels
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SHREVEPORT, Louisiana (Ticker) -- Used to playing in major bowls year after year, Nebraska has been reduced to second-tier status.

After struggling through their worst season in four decades, the Cornhuskers had to settle for the Independence Bowl, where they will take on Mississippi in a battle of teams that had losing records in their conferences.

The combined records of the two teams (13-12) is the worst of any of the 28 bowl games.

Over the past 21 seasons, Nebraska (7-6) has played in 10 Orange Bowls, five Fiesta Bowls, two Sugar Bowls and one Rose Bowl. This is its first visit to Shreveport, but the Cornhuskers are fortunate to be going anywhere.

While Nebraska extended its NCAA record of consecutive bowl appearances to 34, an even more impressive streak is on the line against Ole Miss. The Cornhuskers need a victory to stretch their streak of consecutive winning seasons to 42, a record of excellence that began in 1961.

Nebraska's string of 33 consecutive nine-win campaigns ended this year as the Cornhuskers will finish with fewer than nine wins for the first time since going 6-4 in 1968.

While the Cornhuskers badly missed Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, sophomore quarterback Jammal Lord did his part, rushing for 1,1329 yards. But Nebraska experienced all kinds of problems on defense, ranking just 60th against the pass.

Eli Manning, son of Archie and brother of Peyton, passed for 3,008 yards during the regular season and could have more success throwing against the Cornhuskers' shaky secondary.

Nebraska coach Frank Solich shook up his staff after the Cornhuskers concluded the regular season with a 28-13 loss to Colorado. Solich fired three defensive coaches - coordinator Craig Buhl, rush ends coach Nelson Barnes and secondary coach George Darlington - and also announced he would give up his role as offensive coordinator.

This battle of Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference teams shapes up as a contrast of styles. Ole Miss ranked just 53th against the run, meaning the Cornhuskers likely will try to keep Manning off the field by pounding the ball on the ground.

The Rebels had trouble running the ball all year as Ronald McClendon was their leading ballcarrier with just 342 yards.

Mississippi won five of its first six games and entertained aspirations of contending in the SEC West after upsetting Florida, 17-14, on October 5. But the Rebels dropped five in a row at one point and needed to beat Mississippi State, 24-12, in the Egg Bowl to become bowl eligible.

Mississippi is 17-12 all-time in bowl play, including a 49-38 loss to West Virginia in the 2000 Music City Bowl in its last appearance.

Nebraska will be making its record 41st bowl appearance. The Cornhuskers are 20-20 all-time, but suffered a 37-14 loss to Miami in last season's national championship game in the Rose Bowl.


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