Images: USA Today Sports
Here’s a news flash – when the Music City Bowl rolls around on Dec. 30, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are going to want to run the ball on Ole Miss. More specifically, the Jackets are going to want to get the ball in the hands of their biggest playmaker, Robert Godhigh.
The senior Yellow Jackets running back has emerged as Tech’s biggest offensive threat–both rushing and receiving–and averages over 10 yards of offense every time he touches the ball.
Ole Miss has struggled a bit defending the run, finishing 54th in the nation–giving up 155.25 rushing yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns–so finding a way to stop Godhigh is going to be one of the key items on the Rebels’ to-do list.
A big part of that task is going to fall on the shoulders of highly touted freshman defensive tackle, Robert Nkemdiche.
Nkemdiche was one of the most highly sought after prospects last season, and it was considered a huge get for the Rebels when he announced that Ole Miss was going to be his choice of schools. For most freshman, Nkemdiche has had a pretty good season, compiling 29 tackles (21 solo, 8 asst), eight tackles for loss, and two quarterback sacks. But it may not have been what the Rebels thought they were going to get with a consensus No.1 overall player.
The Grayson, Ga. product was going to be looked to for two things in the Ole Miss defense in 2013; get pressure up the middle on the QB, and get in the backfield to make tackles for a loss on running backs. If the Rebels want to have any chance at slowing down the Georgia Tech running attack, Nkemdiche is going to have to spend a lot of time on the other side of the line of scrimmage, and most importantly, on his feet.
If Nkemdiche can’t figure out how to get past the cut blocks that will be thrown at him by Tech’s offensive line, Godhigh will be able to do what he does best, and that’s bounce to the outside behind his fullback and blockers until he hits the edge and turns on the jets.
In the two games that Mississippi played against teams that employ any variation of an option offense–Auburn and Texas A&M–Nkemdiche was held without any tackles for a loss, and only made three tackles in the two combined games. Tech’s triple-option is very similar to what Auburn ran, and the Tigers were able to pile up 282 rushing yards against the Rebels in that game, a 30-22 Auburn win.
Godhigh just needs a sliver of daylight, and if he doesn’t have Nkemdiche meeting him face-to-face behind the line of scrimmage, he’s able to slip between the tackles quickly or take it to the outside behind his blocking.
Nkemdiche is also going to need to be wary of Godhigh in the screen game. It’s very common for Godhigh to get a chip block on an incoming tackle, only to release and catch a screen pass in the flat. This was one of the ways that Texas A&M was able to neutralize Nkemdiche’s speed and aggressiveness.
The cat and mouse game between the plays that are called for Godhigh, and how Nkemdiche defends them, will be one of the interesting games within the game in this year’s Music City Bowl.