GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Music City Bowl

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Music City Bowl Trophy

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Music City Bowl Trophy
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Dec. 30, 2013

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Bowl Week Report 12.27 | Bowl Week Report 12.28 | Bowl Week Report 12.29

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For Ole Miss, the 2013 season began in Nashville with a thrilling 39-35 win over Vanderbilt, and it will end in Nashville, as the Rebels play Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl with a kickoff set for 2:15 p.m. (ESPN) from LP Field.

The Rebels (7-5) are making their second straight postseason appearance under head coach Hugh Freeze, having defeated Pittsburgh 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl last season. Ole Miss is tied for 10th all-time among Division I teams with 22 bowl victories and has won nine of its last 10 bowl games, including each of the last five, which is tied with Auburn and Florida State for the longest bowl win streak in the nation.

Ole Miss has equaled last season’s win total and seeks its first eight-win season since 2009. The Rebels earned a top-10 win over then-No. 6 LSU and won on the road at Vanderbilt and Texas. All five of the Rebels’ losses this season were to teams who earned a bowl bid, including four top-25 ranked teams.

“Particularly at this stage of where we are in our program, I don’t want make too much or too little of one game,” Freeze said. “This is one game, and it’s important, and I know both teams are going to want to win. It would certainly be very advantageous for us to win. It will help us in the offseason and help us have a different feeling in the way we ended the season. It helps us in recruiting.

“But at the same time, it is just one game, and we’re playing a quality opponent. You want to play in these games, but you can be beaten by those teams. There’s no way we’re going to define ourselves by whether this game goes our way or the other way.”

The Rebels rank fifth in the SEC and 21st nationally in total offense (473.0 yards per game) and have already broken the school record for yards in a season (5,676 yards). Junior quarterback Bo Wallace ranks third in the SEC and 26th nationally in both total offense (279.9 ypg) and passing (257.5 ypg).

Eight players earned All-SEC honors, headlined by junior safety Cody Prewitt, who was named a first team All-American by the Associated Press and USA Today, and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who was tabbed SEC Freshman of the Year by the league coaches, becoming the first Rebel to be named the league’s freshman of the year.

Georgia Tech (7-5) is making its 17th straight bowl appearance, which is tied for the second-longest active streak nationally behind only Virginia Tech (21). The Yellow Jackets have earned a bowl berth each of the six seasons under head coach Paul Johnson, including a 21-7 win over USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl last season.

The Yellow Jackets have rushed for more yards than any FBS team since 2008 and rank sixth nationally this season with 311.7 rushing yards per game. They also rank 22nd nationally in scoring averaging 36.6 points per game.

The Georgia Tech rushing attack is led by senior running backs David Sims and Robert Godhigh. Sims enters the bowl season fifth in the ACC in rushing (70.5 ypg) and his 12 touchdowns are tied for sixth in the league. Godhigh is second on the team in rushing (57.8 ypg) and averages 12.4 yards per play, which leads all running backs in the FBS, including 14 plays from scrimmage of 30+ yards, which is the fourth-most among FBS players.

"Preparing for them is a whole different animal from what we have seen this year,” Freeze said. “We didn’t have anyone on the schedule that was remotely similar to them offensively, so it’s a great challenge. Even though we have had extra time, and our kids have done as good a job trying to prepare as we can, there’s no way we can simulate the speed at which they do it. Hopefully, we can adjust to the speed of the game before too much damage is done. If you watch them, they’re very good at jumping out on top because of how well they do what they do.”

“It's still a little disadvantage because they do thousands and thousands of reps and we've had somewhere around 450 reps,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack added. “Our guys have really taken on the challenge and are looking forward to it. We’re going to execute really well."

Defensively, the Yellow Jackets rank ninth in rush defense, holding opponents to just 107 rushing yards per game. Their leader is senior defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, who has 15.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks and ranks third nationally with 1.0 sacks per game. A second team All-ACC selection, Attaochu has 31 career sacks and enters the game a half sack shy of breaking the school’s career record.

“(Georgia Tech’s defense) reminds me a lot of some of the teams we have played,” Freeze said. “They are very, very sound and make you earn every point you get. They give up very few big plays, have a tremendous pass rusher who gives you problems and they stop the run, which those are the teams we have struggled with this year when they stop the run."

This is the fourth meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech dating back to 1946, with the Yellow Jackets holding a 2-1 series lead. The two teams have split two previous meetings in bowl games, most recently a 41-18 Ole Miss victory in the 1971 Peach Bowl.

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