On Dec. 30, the Ole Miss Rebels and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets face off in Nashville for the 16th annual Music City Bowl. Both teams hope to gain momentum after losing to in-state rivals at the end of the season.
Offensively, the teams are very different in their approach. Ole Miss stays in the shotgun formation to run the read-option, while Georgia Tech prefers to stay under center to run the triple option. The Rebels pass the ball more than the Yellow Jackets as well. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has completed 261 of his 405 passes for 3,090 yards and 17 touchdowns. On the other side, Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee has completed 77 of 163 passes for 1,414 yards and ten touchdowns.
The Rebels have the advantage in the passing game. But Lee has other talents than just passing. The triple-option offense led by Lee ranks sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (311.67 yards per game). He has 166 carries for 489 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
For Ole Miss, Wallace has 118 carries for 269 yards and four touchdowns. The read option is a staple for the Rebel offense. However, the Rebels struggled with the read option against Missouri and Mississippi State. If Ole Miss wants to succeed, they need to get those problems resolved.
Overall, Wallace is the better quarterback. He may not be as impressive at running the ball, but his resume is more impressive than Lee’s.
At wide receiver, the Rebels have three receivers have more than 500 yards receiving on the year. Junior Donte Moncrief leads the team in receiving with 825 yards on 53 receptions and five touchdowns. Ja-Mes Logan is second with 44 receptions for 583 yards and three touchdowns. True freshman Laquon Treadwell is third in receiving, but leads the team in receptions. He has 67 receptions for 557 yards and five touchdowns.
The Georgia Tech receivers aren’t as impressive. Running back Robert Godhigh in receiving yards. He caught 21 receptions for 420 yards and two touchdowns this season. Compared to the Rebel’s receiving corps, Godhigh would be fourth on the team. The team has two players with more than 300 yards receiving and only four who have over 200.
It’s safe to say that Ole Miss has the clear advantage at the receiver position, but the backfield is a completely different story. The Rebels experienced stellar gameplay this season from running backs I’tavius Mathers, Jeff Scott and Jaylen Walton. Mathers leads the team with 82 carries for 505 yards and three touchdowns. Scott ran for 493 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season. Then Walton is third with 470 yards and a team leading six rushing touchdowns.
All three Rebel leaders played great, but, compared to Georgia Tech’s backfield, those numbers are small. The top four rushers for the Yellow Jackets have exploded for over 400 yards rushing and at least six touchdowns each this season. David Sims leads the team 151 carries for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns. Godhigh is second with 69 carries for 694 yards and six touchdowns.
Solid defensive plays will determine this game. Both teams hold a great deal of firepower on offense, so it is imperative to slow down the opponent. Each teams has areas in which it excels, but no defense is perfect.
The Yellow Jacket’s rushing defense is solid and ranks second in the ACC (107.0 yards given up each game). They are good at penetrating into the backfield and stopping the rushing attack. The passing defense is a different story though. Georgia Tech is ranked 13th in pass defense (243.5 yards given up) in the ACC.
Tech succeeded at getting to the quarterback to force early throws or get sacks. They are sixth in the ACC in sacks with 32.0. Even though they are in the top half of the conference in sacks, they’ve had trouble bringing down other players in the backfield. Right now, the Jackets have 75.0 tackles for loss on the year which is ninth in the ACC.
The defensive line and linebackers do a great job stopping opponents, but the secondary caused several of Georgia Tech’s losses this year. Overall, the defense is middle of the pack, but they do have their strengths. Ole Miss struggled to win games this season when they weren’t able to get the running game going so that works into the Yellow Jacket’s advantage.
The Rebel defense played relentlessly the first three games of the season when the Rebels were undefeated. Then hit a skid during the stretch against Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M. Against LSU, the Landshark defense dominated opponents to start four-game winning streak. They played well against Missouri, but it wasn’t enough. In Starkville, they didn’t give the Bulldogs any room to breath, holding them to just 10 points in regulation.
The concern for Ole Miss stopping the powerful triple-option attack. The Rebels rank ninth in the SEC for rushing defense (155.25 yards per game) and eighth in passing defense (221.3 yards per game). The passing game isn’t much of a concern but slowing down the running game is.
Ole Miss struggled to get sacks, but they have excelled in tackles for loss. The Rebels rank fifth in the SEC in tackles for loss (78.0). Isaac Gross, Robert Nkemdiche and DT Shackelford have amazing push up front. If they are able to get into the backfield of Georgia Tech, it could be a long day for the Yellow Jackets.
The defensive edge goes to the Rebels. Tech has an amazing rushing defense, but they have an equally abysmal passing defense. Ole Miss may be middle of the pack in both, but there is some consistency. Plus, they have faced bigger, more athletic players on the offensive line this season than Georgia Tech. The Rebel defense should be able to wear down the offensive line and get into the backfield early and often.
Ole Miss has the better team, but games are not won on paper. The Rebels will have to show up and play their A game to take down a solid Georgia Tech team who is looking to end the season with momentum just like they are.
Check back later for more game updates!
–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com
–You can email Justin at email@example.com