#9 Ole Miss v. #6 TCU
Georgia Dome — Atlanta, GA
December 31, 2014 — 12:30 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
After years of hovering just outside the elite tier of the bowl hierarchy during the BCS era, the Peach Bowl has graduated to New Year’s Six status in the new College Football Playoff system. It’s enjoyed 17 straight years of shutouts and was annually the highest-attended non-BCS bowl game, making it a logical addition to the top tier of games. It’s also the fourth time in the past five years that the game matches up two ranked teams. This year’s contest features one team that looked like a threat to win the SEC until November and another that feels justifiably snubbed after being dropped by the CFP selection committee from third to sixth in the final standings after Championship Saturday. The kickoff of this year’s Peach Bowl marks the commencement of a new era in college football history, and you certainly don’t want to miss out.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Ole Miss threatened for the SEC West title a year earlier than expected, going 7-0 to start the season before losing three of its last five to end the regular season. Despite the late swoon, though, it was still quite an impressive season for Hugh Freeze’s squad. The Rebels managed to go 9-3 against the fifth-hardest schedule in the nation according to Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings, illuminating just how talented this team was in 2014.
The offense, at first glance, was nothing particularly spectacular. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace completed 61 percent of his passes for 3085 yards and 22 touchdowns to lead the 31st-ranked passing offense. Junior tailback Jaylen Walton led the team with 583 rushing yards, but one-quarter of that total was compiled in the Egg Bowl victory; Walton rushed for fewer than 50 yards in seven of his other 10 appearances. It all added up to an average of 30.4 points per game, good for just 57th nationally in scoring offense.
The defense was the real star for the Rebels in 2014. The team allowed 20 or fewer points in 10 of its 12 games, finishing first overall nationally in scoring defense while allowing less than two touchdowns on average per game. The Landsharks also held opponents to 321 total yards per game, fourth-best in the SEC and 13th nationally . The secondary snagged 19 interceptions, with the defense also recovering nine fumbles during the regular season.
If not for a 61-58 loss at Baylor on October 11, in a game that the Horned Frogs led by 21 in the fourth quarter, TCU would be an undisputed, undefeated Big 12 champion and undoubtedly part of the four-team CFP field. As it is, Gary Patterson’s crew won a share of the Big 12 title in just its third year as a conference member. Finishing 11-1 against the 44th toughest schedule, TCU will return to a big-time bowl game for the first time since its win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day 2011.
The offense was the key to turning around TCU’s fortunes in their new conference. Co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham were instrumental in the turnaround of the unit, which finished the year second nationally in scoring offense with nearly 47 points per game. Quarterback Trevone Boykin was a major beneficiary of the new system, throwing for 3700 yards and 30 touchdowns and adding another 600-plus yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Five different receivers finished the year with over 300 receiving yards, led by Josh Doctson’s 59 receptions for 959 yards and nine touchdowns. And bolstering the nation’s seventh-best passing offense was a ground game that averaged almost 210 yards per game.
TCU didn’t slack on defense, its usual calling card. The team allowed 20.3 points per game, finishing the year 17th in the country in the category, and held teams to an average of fewer than 360 total yards. Only Louisiana Tech generated more turnovers than the 36 forced by the Horned Frogs, with the secondary picking off 23 passes and the unit recovering 13 fumbles.
What is Likely to Happen
Something will have to give when two of the nation’s 20 best defenses square off in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. The Rebels come into this contest with far less momentum than the Horned Frogs, suffering some uneven efforts in November while TCU is on a seven-game winning streak. Boykin and Doctson are going to find ways to gash an Ole Miss secondary that can be beat, and the Horned Frogs are far more likely to find the endzone against an elite defense than the Rebels. The goodwill of the Egg Bowl evaporates in the Georgia Dome as TCU completes its first 12-win season since moving from the Mountain West.
TCU 28, Ole Miss 21