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Music City Bowl 2013 Preview: Against Georgia Tech, Ole Miss Looks to Prove Its Progress

The Rebels have shown some tangible signs of moving forward this year, but a victory in the bowl game would be a nice shot in the arm for Hugh Freeze's program

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi Rebels vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Monday, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Three games in, Ole Miss' season seemed about as good as it could be. The Rebels had won a road game against Vanderbilt that we now know is more impressive than it seemed, then handled their cupcake and turned around and walloped Texas in a game that no one saw. Then came three straight losses, and the hype train evaporated. Then came the win against LSU and three more victories in a row to set up a perfect fall when Ole Miss lost its final two games.

In one sense, that makes it a bit hard to put too much stock into this one game. The Rebels won seven regular-season games this year, as opposed to six in 2012, and got revenge on LSU and Texas for losses a year ago (the latter in embarrassing fashion). The Auburn and Mississippi State losses balanced those out to an extent on the win-loss record, but overall, it was a pretty good season for the Rebels.

Still, eight wins would be a sign of progress for the program. And winning the Music City Bowl would be a step up from winning the BBVA Compass Bowl. If Hugh Freeze wants to prove that the chirping from Starkville and other quarters about his being overrated is premature, then the best way to start is by winning this game.

Georgia Tech has had something of a topsy-turvy season as well, though perhaps with a bit less turbulence. Their resume is largely comprised of beating average or bad teams and then losing to good ones, but there are some exceptions. The 24-point win at Duke looks pretty good in retrospect. And a 56-0 waxing of Texas Bowl winner Syracuse looks nice. But the 15-point defeat at Miami, the 24-point loss to Clemson -- all of those still sting.

What has to concern anyone pulling for Ole Miss in this game is the rushing defense, which is ranked 53rd in the country on a per-game basis. The 4.01 yard per carry average isn't much better. Georgia Tech, in case you haven't heard, likes to run the ball quite a bit. How well Tech can run is one of the key factors in deciding who wins this game. If the triple-option is humming, even teams that usually defend the run pretty well can give up a ton of yards. But it's a precision-based attack, meaning it's more vulnerable than some other offenses to gathering rust after two or three weeks off.

The silver lining for Ole Miss in this game is that the Jackets are pretty bad against the pass. Georgia Tech gives up an average of 243.5 yards per game through the air, with opposing quarterbacks posting a 132.88 passer efficiency rating against the Yellow Jackets. That puts Georgia Tech at 83rd in the FBS. If Bo Wallace can have a relatively mistake-free game and the Rebels defense has used its time wisely, they should be able to get the win.

Ole Miss 33, Georgia Tech 30