During what has been a tremendous comeback season for LSU football, the Tigers have exorcised many of the demons that have haunted them over the past two years. They beat Urban Meyer's Florida Gators in "The Swamp." They stopped Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tiger Stadium. And just recently, they refused to keep an out-matched, non-conference in the game by blasting UL-Monroe 51-0.
Now it's time for LSU to take care of those Rebels from Oxford. And I'm not just talking about beating Ole Miss. I'm talking about routing them.
"It's definitely the next step," says LSU senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard on defeating Ole Miss. "That's the way I view it, and hopefully the team looks at it the same way. We need to win this game in order to reach a meaningful bowl."
There should be plenty of motivation to do just that.
Houston Nutt's club has defeated LSU the past two seasons, and both have been embarrassing to the Tigers for different reasons. Actually, Houston Nutt's club has defeated LSU three years in a row (more on that in a moment). In 2008 the Rebels ruined the Tigers "Senior Day" in Death Valley with an easy 31-13 triumph, outgaining LSU by a staggering total of 409-215. It certainly was a humbling final home game for 19 Tigers who played such a vital role in the team's national championship the year before. And do we really need to explain what happened on that dreadful evening of November 21st 2009? Well, for those of you oblivious to your local and national sports news, LSU made a furious rally and moved into game-winning field goal range in the final moments. What followed was nothing short of a fiasco. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson and the offense proceeded to march backwards and then allowed precious time to run off the clock. All the while, the Tigers stood with a time out in their back pocket. Then the clock ran some more. Eventually a 4th and 26 desperation heave from Jefferson to Terrance Toliver was caught and gained 43 yards to the Ole Miss 5-yard line. The scoreboard read Ole Miss 25, LSU 23 with 1 second left on the clock. The offense sprinted down the field while the field goal team remained on the sideline. Jefferson was confused. Everyone was. He spiked the ball as time expired. Ole Miss leaped in celebration while their fans rejoiced the astonishing, absolutely wild win. LSU stood in stunned silence in the face of their mind-numbing mistakes.
"It was careless," says LSU Junior running back Stevan Ridley, who is 22 yards away from a 1,000 yard rushing campaign. "It was careless as a team. You can't really single one person out. We were all at fault."
For Ridley, losing to Ole Miss in back-to-back seasons has been a nasty pill to swallow. He's a Mississippi native who initially committed to play for the Rebels, only to change his mind to LSU.
"I've got it personally for them," Ridley adds, "I'm out to get them, man. I'm excited about this opportunity."
Coach Nutt should be too. He may have LSU right where he wants them. His team is slumping badly and no one believes they have a shot. Perfect. It was 2007 when Nutt's Arkansas Razorbacks were supposedly just a speed bump on the way to the Tigers appearance in the BCS National Championship game. Darren McFadden and the Razorbacks had other ideas.
"That McFadden is gonna play for decades," a hoarse, dejected Les Miles grumbled to the media after his team allowed 206 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns to the star back in a 50-48 triple overtime defeat.
"I thought everything we had worked for was over," said then LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, who sat motionless on the field for an extended time after the loss. "It certainly appeared our chances of playing for it all were finished."
Had Pittsburgh (a 27 point underdog) not pulled off a miracle triumph at West Virginia and had LSU not mustered enough emotion to beat Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game (along with a couple of other factors), Nutt might be just as resented around these parts as Nick Saban. After all, he would've prevented the Tigers from playing for the crystal ball in their back yard of New Orleans. Can you imagine?
Well let's imagine this. Two wins in LSU's two final games puts the Tigers at 11-1 and likely marching towards a BCS bowl. Like in 2006, Les Miles and company can appear in the Sugar Bowl and finish in the top five of the national rankings without appearing in the SEC Championship Game. It starts with this Saturday.
"If we lose to Ole Miss, it definitely takes away everything we're trying to do," says LSU junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson. "If we win, it's our 10th win of the year. We haven't had that many since 2007. That would mean a lot."
So go do it LSU. Play like an elite team. Don't ruin another Senior Day. Don't slide by; pound these guys.
Yeah, I know…when you start thinking about winning big you try too hard. You lose sight of "the process" and become reckless. Don't get greedy; SEC wins are hard to earn.
"It's definitely gonna be a close game," Jefferson adds.
He's being respectful to the opponent, as he should. But with all due respect, I don't have to buy that comment. Just like I don't have to swallow, "The Grove is one of the great traditions in all of college football."
Ole Miss is 4-6 overall, 1-5 in the SEC. They just got totally blasted by an abysmal Tennessee squad 52-14. They also lost to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt for crying out loud. Their quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tried to show up in August and lead a bunch of strangers to a championship. Who does he think he is? Brett Favre?
Yeah, I know Ole Miss always seems to bring out the worst in the Tigers. I've seen it time and time again. Just ask Rohan Davey and the SEC Champs in 2001. But all good things, or in this case all BAD things, eventually come to an end. And this is that time.
The Rebels are on the ropes LSU.