Music City Bowl: Preview, Predictions, TV info

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

What: Franklin America Mortgage Music City Bowl

Who: Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3 ACC) vs. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC)

When: Monday, Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Where: LP Field (69,143), Nashville, Tenn.

Opening Line: Ole Miss -2.5

What matters: Many, many bowls will be decided by which team shows up more motivated than the other, but that might go double for this year's Music City. Both the Rebels and Jackets entered the season regarded as dangerous conference darkhorses; both looked the part early on before faltering in the middle of the year; and both finished the season by losing to their in-state rivals in excruciating fashion. So will Hugh Freeze or Paul Johnson have more success tossing aside the disappointment of the season and having his team ready to play in Nashville?

Who matters: Aside from Tech pass-rushing terror Jeremiah Attaochu, neither defense is anything too spectacular; the Rebels rank 45th in FBS average yards-per-play allowed (5.31), the Jackets 62nd (5.5). Which means offensive execution will be paramount, and that starts with the two quarterbacks. Like their teams, Tech's Vad Lee (QB rating: 129.32, eighth in the ACC) and Bo Wallace (QB rating: 137.94, 8th in the SEC) were just good enough to suggest they really should have been better. Whichever makes the bigger plays -- and that goes for plays with their legs as well as their arms -- will give their team a decisive advantage.

Matchup question: The Rebels' defensive front of ends Cameron Whigham, Robert Nkemdiche and Channing Ward and tackles Lavon Hooks, Woodrow Hamilton and Issac Gross has had some solid performances (holding LSU to 3.26 yards per-carry) and some not-so-solid performances (5.76 yards-per-carry allowed to Arkansas, 5.1 to Missouri). Can they get the consistent penetration needed to disrupt the Tech triple option?

Prediction: Even if neither team distinguished itself down the stretch, the Jackets showed a little more life vs. Clemson and Georgia than the Rebels did vs. Missouri and Mississippi State. Add in the natural chip-on-the-shoulder that comes with being an ACC team facing an SEC team, and we'll give the narrowest of edges to Tech. Georgia Tech 23, Ole Miss 20.

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