Ole Miss Rebels (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5)
Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET, Nashville, Tenn. (ESPN)
OLE MISS REBELS BREAKDOWN
It was a very interesting year for the Rebels, but even after dropping their last two games of the season, they are heading to a bowl game for the second straight year. Coach Hugh Freeze has orchestrated an impressive turnaround in Oxford, even with depth issues all around and nagging injuries that piled up as the season went on.
The season began with three impressive wins, including a thriller in Nashville against Vanderbilt and a 44-23 blowout of Texas in Austin. The Rebels, however, then dropped three straight games to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M before winning four straight to become bowl eligible.
Ole Miss owned one of the SEC's best offensive attacks this season. The Rebels ranked fifth in the SEC with 473 yards per game. They ran for 187.4 yards per game while throwing for 285.6 per contest. Even though many in Oxford got frustrated with quarterback Bo Wallace's up-and-down play in the final two games of the season, he still threw for 3,090 yards and 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Freeze knew he was going to have to get a lot out of his outstanding freshman class and certainly did from receiver Laquon Treadwell, who led the Rebels with 67 receptions and added 557 yards and five touchdowns, and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, who started nine games at left tackle.
The end of the season wasn't ideal for an Ole Miss team that was in line for a nine-win regular season, but for a program that totaled just six combined wins during the two years prior to Freeze's arrival, back-to-back bowl berths is a major accomplishment. -- Edward Aschoff
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS BREAKDOWN
The season was to be both a year of rebuilding and a year of progress for Georgia Tech. The offensive backfield received a massive makeover after last year’s surprising ACC Coastal Division title, but there was ample room for optimism that Vad Lee could inject a downfield threat into Paul Johnson’s option offense.
At times this year, that’s exactly what Lee did. The sophomore quarterback threw for four TD passes in a win over Duke, and after three weeks, Tech was 3-0 and Lee had accounted for 10 touchdowns and just one interception. The future indeed looked bright.
What followed for Georgia Tech was a roller coaster. The Yellow Jackets lost three straight, and Lee nearly lost his job. Then Tech rebounded by winning three in a row, rekindling hopes of a repeat as Coastal champs. But the season ended with bitter disappointment, including a loss to Clemson and an utterly demoralizing 41-34 overtime defeat to in-state rival Georgia in a game when Tech once led 20-0. In the season’s final nine games, Lee threw for just three touchdowns.
There were highlights in 2013, including strong seasons by running backs Robert Godhigh and David Sims. Only Auburn, which will play for the national title, rushed for more touchdowns than Tech’s 45. There was a marked improvement for a defense that struggled badly a year ago, too, led by Jeremiah Attaochu’s ACC-leading 12 sacks. But the end result was a 7-5 campaign, and Johnson’s Jackets continue to hover near .500, having not won more than eight games since 2009. -- David M. Hale