Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3) — The SEC’s first bowl opponent this holiday season is Georgia Tech, a mid-level ACC finisher who finished in a three-way tie for third in a Coastal Division won by Duke. The Yellow Jackets’ 21-7 win over Southern Cal in last year’s Sun Bowl snapped a seven-year bowl losing skid and put Trojans coach Lane Kiffin’s future on life support.
Related: Complete SEC Bowl Schedule
THE SKINNY: Paul Johnson’s relentless option attack at Georgia Tech ranks fourth in the nation at 311.2 rushing yards per game, but ironically, no Yellow Jacket ballcarrier has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. David Sims is the workhorse with 846 yards and 11 touchdowns while Robert Godhigh’s the big-play threat who’s averaging 12.3 yards every offensive touch. His 10.1 yards per carry is a team-high among players with at least 30 attempts and Godhigh’s 420 yards receiving is also first.
Related: Ole Miss Regular Season Recap
KEY PLAYER: Georgia Tech sophomore quarterback Vad Lee is a tough runner between the tackles but from the pocket, his confidence has been shaken this season. The Yellow Jackets’ offense isn’t built to play from behind and Lee’s 47.9 adjusted QBR is at the bottom of the 11 ACC starting quarterbacks in bowl games. He’s completing less than 50 percent of his throws, so forcing the Yellow Jackets into passing situations on third down is key for the Ole Miss defense. Lee’s coming off a four-touchdown effort in a four-overtime loss to Georgia which would’ve been one of his top career outings had it not been for two interceptions — his eighth game this season with a turnover.
WHAT TO WATCH: Will Ole Miss contain Georgia Tech’s option-heavy offense? The statistics say it will be quite a challenge. While the Rebels’ rush defense ranks in the middle of the SEC yielding 155.2 yards per game, Ole Miss is tied with Kentucky for most rushing touchdowns allowed with 26. When the Rebels have the football, they prefer up-tempo with Bo Wallace and I’Tavius Mathers but possessions could be limited if the Yellow Jackets get things churning on the ground. A time of possession monster, Georgia Tech will try and keep the ball away from the Rebels with an effective ground-and-pound. Ole Miss’ plan during bowl prep? Assignment football.
FINAL SAY: Ole Miss can lessen the sting of last month’s Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State with a bowl win in Nashville which would push the Rebels’ win total to eight — the most since 2009. A promising 7-3 start that featured a three-point home win over then-No. 6 LSU was softened following consecutive losses to end the regular season. The future’s bright in Oxford under Hugh Freeze and a victory in the Music City would give fans something positive to savor heading into 2014.
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