GAME NOTES: The 16th annual Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl is on tap for Monday, Dec. 30, as the Ole Miss Rebels take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at LP Field.
For the first time since 2008-09, Ole Miss has become bowl eligible for the second straight season, the first two under head coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels finished the campaign 7-5, with their season highlight coming in the form of a four-game winning streak lasting from Oct. 19 through Nov. 16. Their signature win came during that stretch with a 27-24 victory over nationally-ranked LSU.
"I am proud of our team's hard work and commitment as we continue our journey," Freeze said. "We have one of the great bowl traditions in all of college football, and I'm excited that we have earned a bowl berth in each of our first two seasons. I appreciate the unbelievable support Rebel Nation has provided our team, and I look forward to seeing a sea of Red and Blue in Nashville."
Georgia Tech, which is also 7-5, has been one of the nation's most consistent programs in recent years, as it has now qualified for a bowl game in 17 straight seasons, the second-longest active streak in the nation. However, its only bowl win since 2004 came in last season's Sun Bowl over USC, 21-7. The Yellow Jackets are sliding into bowl season with losses in two of three, including a 41-34 double-overtime loss in the regular-season finale versus Georgia.
"To play a bowl game within driving distance for our fans, and to play against a high-quality opponent in Ole Miss, is a great opportunity," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "Ole miss is a very talented football team and they are well-coached, so we certainly have our work cut out for us. It should be an entertaining football game."
In regards to the all-time series, Ole Miss has beaten Georgia Tech in two of the three previous meetings. The last matchup came in the 1971 Peach Bowl, with the Rebels wining, 41-18.
Ole Miss had one of the better offenses in the SEC this season, scoring 30.4 points per game while racking up 473.0 yards per contest and completing third downs at an impressive 46-percent conversion rate.
Bo Wallace is efficient under center, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,090 yards with 17 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, while adding solid rushing totals as well (269 yards, four TDs). Barry Brunetti has seen limited snaps but makes the most of his opportunities, accounting for 10 touchdowns (six passing, four rushing).
Jeff Scott missed four games this season due to injury but showed explosion out of the backfield when healthy, picking up 493 yards on 7.4 yards per carry. I'Tavious Mathers (505 yards, three TDs) and Jaylen Walton (470 yards, six TDs) are also mixed in.
Wallace has displayed great chemistry with Donte Moncrief, who's hauled in 53 passes for 825 yards and five touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell (67 receptions, 557 yards, five TDs) and Ja-Mes Logan (44 receptions, 583 yards, three TDs) are reliable targets as well.
Defensively, the Rebels have been able to hold their own, allowing just 24.2 points and 376.5 yards per game while creating 20 takeaways.
Serderius Bryant (70 tackles, 10.5 TFL), Denzel Nkemdiche (34 tackles) and Robert Nkemdiche (29 tackles, 8.0 TFL) have all missed time this season with injuries and there's no doubt the unit has benefitted from having all three healthy at once. Cody Prewitt was named First Team All-SEC at defensive back after racking up 70 tackles, six interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Georgia Tech has also found great success on offense this season (36.6 ppg, 440.7 ypg) thanks mostly to having the fifth-ranked rushing attack in the nation at 311.7 yards per game.
The Yellow Jackets rotate several players in and out of the backfield, with 12 guys rushing for at least 100 yards this season. David Sims is the most utilized tailback with 846 yards and 11 touchdowns, while quarterback Vad Lee (489 yards, eight TDs) operates the triple-option attack. Robert Godhigh (646 yards, six TDs) makes the most of his limited reps, averaging 10.1 yards per carry.
Lee's passing stats are predictably substandard (.472 completion percentage, 1,414 yards, 10 TDs, nine INTs), but the passing attack usually strikes for big plays, as he averages 18.4 yards per completion.
Godhigh is also a major threat at receiver, catching 21 balls for 420 yards and two scores, while DeAndre Smelter (345 yards, four TDs) also has 21 receptions.
The Yellow Jackets have a top-notch defense to support their high-scoring offense, as they finished the regular season with the fourth-best scoring defense in the ACC (22.7 ppg). The unit benefits greatly from the offense's ball control, as it averages just 26:10 of playing time per game.
The defense is anchored by Jeremiah Attaochu, who was named Second Team All- ACC at defensive end after tallying 40 tackles, 15.5 TFL and 12.0 sacks. Jamea Thomas (73 tackles, two INTs,two FF), Quayshawn Nealy (57 tackles, two INTs, two FR), Adam Gotsis (13.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, INT) and Louis Young (38 tackles, two INTs) also had strong seasons.
Ole Miss has proven this season to be vulnerable against teams with strong ground games, losing to Missouri, Auburn and Alabama, all of which rank in the top-25 nationally in rushing. If Georgia Tech can effectively set the pace, control the clock and keep the Rebels' offensive playmakers on the sideline, it'll have a great chance at winning its second straight bowl game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 31, Ole Miss 27