The 2013 season was a roller coaster season for second-year head coach Hugh Freeze. After going on several winning and losing streaks, the Rebels won seven of the first ten games, only to lose the final two against Missouri and Mississippi State.
You might call this year a sophomore slump as Freeze hopes another round or two in recruiting will have Ole Miss back as a perennial top 25 team.
Similarly, Georgia Tech jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to hit a wall in the passing game. This team relies heavily on the triple option as QB Van Lee was only able to pass for three touchdowns over the last nine games. The final game with Georgia, even in a loss, should give Tech plenty of confidence that they can play well with an SEC opponent.
These two teams were founding members of the SEC but have only played each other three times, with Ole Miss winning the last matchup in the 1971 Peach Bowl. The Music City Bowl is a preview of the future matchups between the schools in 2017 and 2018.
Continue reading as we evaluate the individual units in this rare meeting between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.
Offensive line looks to be a mash-unit for both teams.
Georgia Tech's Junior Right Tackle Morgan Bailey appears to be out for the bowl game due to a hernia and backup left tackle Chase Roberts is questionable due to a concussion from the Clemson game.
Ole Miss' lack of depth and early injuries forced two freshmen on the field in Austin Golson and Laremy Tunsil, but you can expect Golson to be sidelined with shoulder surgery and Tunsil is questionable as he nurses a sprained knee.
Even with the injuries, this Georgia Tech team is grinding out over 300 yards on the ground. Ole Miss has faltered late in the season offensively due to their injuries.
With the senior leadership up front, I would give the nod to Georgia Tech.
There has only been one quarterback at Ole Miss to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season not named Eli Manning. Bo Wallace finished up the regular season with 3,090 yards through the air after focusing on protecting the ball and his body compared to the 2012 season. The results put Ole Miss as the fifth best offense in the SEC with 286 yards per game and 23 touchdowns overall in the passing game.
Georgia Tech's Sophomore QB Vad Lee started off the 2013 season strong but is not a pocket passer, only amassing 1,414 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. Lee does, however, run the triple option to perfection, and he will be quite a challenge for the Ole Miss front-seven defenders.
While he did struggle at times during this season, Wallace has the most offensive firepower in this game and should be able to have success against a weak Georgia Tech secondary.
If there is one position of depth on the Georgia Tech roster, it is decidedly at the running back position. 2013 saw nine Tech running backs finish with over 100 yards. While there is not a single dominating back at Tech, senior David Sims is certainly capable of taking over a game; at 6'0" and 225 pounds, his 846 total yards is deceiving as he will be planning to make his last game his best game.
Ole Miss is not known as a running team but they do have a number of quality running backs with three nearing 500 yards. Senior speed back Jeff Scott should be available after a deep thigh bruise has limited his production, and interchangeable sophomores I'tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton look to give Ole Miss a bright future.
While Ole Miss has the potential, Tech has the production. Give the edge to Georgia Tech.
Tech's Robert Godhigh is a talented athlete with good hands and occasionally gets behind cornerbacks as he averages 20 yards per catch this season. Junior Deandre Smelter also has a high average per catch at 16.4, but comparing the wide receiver production between these two schools is like comparing daylight to darkness.
Ole Miss has a fleet of four or five wide receivers that could run away with this game. Totaling 3,427 yards, this may be the best wide receiver group to ever play at Ole Miss. Look for junior Donte Moncreif to play well as he has played in double coverage much of the year. Also, freshman Laquon Treadwell has certainly lived up to his recruiting hype as he caught 67 passes for 557 yards.
If the ball is in the air, look for an Ole Miss wide receiver to haul it in.
Georgia Tech has an impressive one-two punch along the defensive line in senior Jeremiah Attaochu and sophomore Adam Gotsis. Combining for 17 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss, Bo Wallace better get ready to roll out, early and often. Tech only allowed 1,284 yards on the ground this year and finished in the top 25 in total defense.
Ole Miss has a deep but young defensive front. Sophomore Issac Gross has a great first step and freshman Robert Nkemdiche has shown flashes of his NFL future, but he is not ready to control the line just yet.
The advantage at defensive line goes to Georgia Tech.
This Georgia Tech defense is good at stopping the run but has given up a lot of passing yards. Evaluation of the linebackers has to factor this into the equation as modern day linebackers are increasingly used in pass coverage. Senior Brandon Watts and junior Quayshawn Nealy hold down the middle of the field and contribute well to the run defense.
Ole Miss' junior Serderius Bryant finished a strong season with 70 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. A big question will be if sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche will be healthy enough to play in the bowl game.
A big advantage for the Rebels will be defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, as he was also the DC at Georgia Tech under head coach Paul Johnson in 2008 and 2009 and should be able to help draw up a good game plan to limit the triple-option attack.
Looking at all the factors between these two squads, I would have to call this a push.
Both teams have exciting playmakers in the defensive back field. Tech's senior DB Jemea Thomas has over 70 tackles and will be all over the field. The rest of the squad is not as impressive, giving up 2,922 yards on the year, bad enough for 13th in the ACC conference.
Ole Miss has had a little more success overall, but look out for junior safety Cody Prewitt, an All-SEC selection and national leader in interceptions. If Georgia Tech gets pass happy, Prewitt could have a big day.
Two young Rebels in sophomore Trae Elson and freshman Tony Conner may play big roles in this bowl if Ole Miss can slow down the run game.
The edge in the secondary goes to the Rebels.
This bowl marks Georgia Tech's 17 straight bowl, tying them with intrastate rival Georgia for the nation's third longest bowl streak behind Virginia Tech (21) and Florida State (32.)
Ole Miss doesn't have a long consecutive steak of bowls, but when they make a bowl, they typically win. The Rebels are 22-12 all time in bowls, good enough for the nation's second-best winning percentage (64.7%.) The Rebels have won nine of their last ten bowls and the last five in a row.
This game will hinge on whether Ole Miss can slow down the Tech rushing attack. If Bo Wallace gets enough touches, good things will happen for him against this Georgia Tech secondary.
I expect a high scoring game with plenty of big plays as Ole Miss takes the Music City Bowl Trophy home to Oxford, MS.