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The (used-to-be) Rivalry

AP File Photo These days, LSU doesn't have a natural rival. There was a time when the LSU-Tulane game was big. But since the Green Wave dropped out of the SEC, the Tigers biggest game or biggest rival just happens to be whoever else is battling the Tigers for the SEC crown that year. So for now, people might say Auburn. It was probably Alabama for a few years in the late 1990s. The SEC has tried to make Arkansas and LSU rivals with their traditional day after Thanksgiving time slot and the "Golden Boot" trophy. It hasn't really worked. Auburn has Alabama and vice versa. Arkansas also doesn't have a true rival anymore, but I'd bet if you ask Razorback fans, their blood burns at the mention of Texas.

That's the way it is when you're the only major program in the state. But it wasn't always that way. LSU and Ole Miss was possibly the biggest rivalry in the south for close to 20 years from the late 1950s through the 1970s. The Rebels now consider the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State their most important game, but old memories die hard every year the Tigers and Rebels get together.

Peter Finney, sports columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, has been covering LSU football since 1954, and remembers vividly the glory days of the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry.

"In the late '50s and early '60s, Ole Miss-LSU was by far the biggest rivalry in southern football and at least as big as anything else in the country," Finney says.

"You had great teams, great coaches, great players, and they were both in the hunt for national championships and major bowls."

It wasn't just that the games were big, they were often memorable for one reason or another. On the LSU side because some of its most famous plays were made against the Rebels. On the Ole Miss side, because the Tigers probably cost the Rebels three national championships.

"LSU was our biggest game, because Coach Vaught made no secret that it was his biggest game," Manning says. "Naturally, that filtered down to the players."

Vaught's intense desire to beat LSU probably stemmed from the fact the Tigers ruined three otherwise perfect Ole Miss seasons in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

Archie Manning well remembers his introduction to the LSU-Ole Miss series, long before he ever stepped foot on the Ole Miss campus.

"It was 1959," Manning says. "I was 10 years old, sitting in the living room listening to the game with my daddy. We were hanging on every play. Ole Miss led 3-0 seemed like forever and then you know what happened. Cannon scored the winning touchdown on that punt return and then LSU had the goalline stand. The crowd was so loud, you could barely hear the announcers.

"I cried and cried and then I went to bed and turned on my radio and back then they played a replay of the game. I listened to it again -- all the way through -- and it was still 7 to 3. So then I cried again. I cried myself to sleep that night. I'll never forget it."

It's a shame that a game that once meant so much has become an also-ran. But such is the ebb and flow of college football. At least we have the memories.