Never ask an Ole Miss fan how to get to Omaha or Atlanta.
That was one of my favorite jokes, and I'm not emotionally prepared for Ole Miss to go to both of those places in the same calendar year. After a lifetime of futility, the mere concept of Ole Miss achieving basic athletic competency is just too much for me to take. It's up to us to nip this thing in the bud.
The LSU-Ole Miss rivalry used to be one of the very best in the conference, and even the nation. Two mighty powers slugged it out for football supremacy, and usually the stakes were high: titles hung in the balance.
Parents passed down a hatred of Ole Miss to their kids, who passed it to their kids. Yet somehow, the rivalry slowly petered out in intensity. Sure, the younger kids still go through the motions, but really, we're just trying to not let our parents down. It's been forty years since Ole Miss was even worth hating. The Rebels clung to their hatred, but LSU moved on to other foes who were still playing for high stakes.
The rivalry withered on the vine because Ole Miss didn't keep up their end of the deal. The younger generations of LSU fans, and this means almost everyone under 40, doesn't really hate Ole Miss because we don't give y'all that much thought. We break out the rituals for Halloween, and then we put it back in the box with cardboard skeletons. Why would we care? Ole Miss has not won an SEC title since 1963. That's before the Beatles came to America. Texas A&M has been to as many SEC Championship Games as Ole Miss has, Mississippi State has been to more.
In the intervening half a century, Ole Miss has won 10 games on only two occasions: 1971 and 2003. The Rebels have not had a 10-win season with a team that did not have a Manning at quarterback. LSU has had four straight 10-win seasons and the fanbase is worried about decline.
Heck, even their great upsets haven't mattered all that much. Ole Miss fans brag about being 3-3 in the last six against LSU, conveniently forgetting that this stretch comes on the heels of a six game losing streak to the Tigers. But hey, let them have their moment. Last year's loss cost LSU nothing, as Bama and Auburn would have still taken the divisional places ahead of LSU. The infamous clock game in 2009 cost LSU a 3rd place finish in the SEC and a trip to the Citrus Bowl... oh wait, that still happened. And Ole Miss beat the worst LSU team of this century in 2008, in a game no one remembers because of the Second Miracle at Markham.
Even your big wins are irrelevant. And that's all I can think of when I think of Ole Miss, a giant void of a program that is threatening to become relevant for the first time in half a century. Heck, to be honest, I don't even remember the wins over Ole Miss because why would I? I don't remember the times we curbstomped some Sun Belt team either. A tiger is not rivals with a gazelle.
So, it is a little odd for Ole Miss to come into Tiger Stadium and actually be, well, good. Their defense is one of the very best in the country: an opportunistic, fast unit that makes solid tackles in the open field. OK, they are vulnerable to a power run team as their primary asset is their speed. Good thing LSU has a big, mean offensive line and the usual deep stable of running backs who believe in seeking out contact and bringing the pain to you.
Ole Miss ranks 1st in the SEC in scoring defense and 2nd in total defense. They allow the lowest passer rating of any team, and they have picked off 15 passes. On the flip side, their running game is legitimately awful, averaging 3.85 yards/carry, 12th in the conference. They do rank 3rd in the SEC in passing, so this is a team that relies on its quarterback to beat you. That's right, Ole Miss' game plan is to rely on Dr. Bo.
I feel a little better, don't you? Because let's say that again: Ole Miss is relying on Bo Wallace to win an important football game on the road.
But look at the strengths and weaknesses of Ole Miss. They have a legit great defense that stops you by getting to the corners first. LSU runs right at you, relying on power, not speed. The Rebels have forced 15 interceptions on the season. Anthony Jennings, for all of his faults, takes care of the football and doesn't turn it over. Ole Miss can't run the football. LSU's biggest weakness on defense is stopping the run. LSU ranks #1 in the SEC in pass defense, and they are playing an offense that relies almost exclusively on the pass.
It's a good matchup is what I'm saying.
You need to call your mom and dad, or maybe your grandparents if you're Jake's age, and ask them how to hate Ole Miss. I mean, they are the ones who actually remember playing a good Ole Miss team. We have almost no practice at this.*
*Yeah, there was 2003. For them, it was a massive, era-defining game. For us, it was just another good team we had to beat on the way to the title.
This is the part where I tell you that you need to stay the full four quarters and scream your damn fool head off. But you know what? I'm not going to insult you with that lecture. You know this is a big game. You know to break out the lucky clothes, whatever ritual you have, and get the right food and beer. You know this is a big game, and you don't need me to tell you that.
Tiger Stadium's been coasting on reputation for a bit, so it's back to the old school night this weekend. Ole Miss is good, the rivalry is alive for this year at least, and Tiger Stadium will be rocking. Set your clocks back four seconds.
Go to hell, Ole Miss, go to hell. I hate Ole Miss. It feels good to say that and mean it, and not just be going through the motions. Someone is going to ruin Ole Miss' season, it might as well be us. Just for old time's sake.