'Sixty Minutes Left'

Things are tough all over for the Ole Miss football program and its fans.

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This is arguably – well, actually not even arguably – the worst performing Ole Miss football team in the "modern" era.

What's the modern era? That is arguable. Let's call it back to 1946, which was the last time Ole Miss won only two games in a season.

That's how bad this has gotten, and some have witnessed that stretch of years from 1976 through 1982 when Ole Miss had seven straight on the field losing seasons. And the probation-plagued years of the late 1980s and again in the mid 1990s. And the era just before Houston Nutt took over.

Folks, it never got this bad through any of that.

The task to find somebody worthy and capable of digging Ole Miss out of this current situation began weeks ago, likely even before the announcement that Nutt won't be back. And there are those out there who can do that. But looking at the team this year, it might take a while.

Patience, long-suffering Rebel fans. More patience.

Nutt was allowed to coach the last three games of the season for the Rebels. He has just one left. It won't be pleasant. Not given the way his team has performed on the field this season.

And if the Rebels lose, it will mark the first time since 1939-41 – that's pre-Pearl Harbor – for Ole Miss to fall to Mississippi State three straight years.

But on to the coaching search. Every day's been a new day for who's the candidate to watch. A flavor of the day, if you will.

An early name actually re-appeared during the LSU game, at least from a national source on twitter (ah, the "modern" ways we find out things). That tweet said Gus Malzahn is leaning toward Ole Miss now and not North Carolina. My question is probably your question. Is Ole Miss even interested in Malzahn?

Make that are Archie Manning and Mike Glenn and their committee interested in him?

Trust Archie. That's the collective battle cry now.

Trust Archie and the committee. After watching Ole Miss football through 11 games this season, that's the only thing that could make Ole Miss fans feel even a little better about the future. Because the present is a disaster.

Mark Hudspeth's name has gained some steam this weekend. From sources, he's got a lot of support inside Mississippi, and also apparently would have a lot of credibility with high school football coaches in the state.

That's this weekend's "name." If the last several days are any indication, there'll probably be another one that moves to the forefront by Monday.

Kirby Smart, still a hot name in college football circles. Hugh Freeze, with apparently a lot of support and recognition from Ole Miss people and in the Memphis area.

Barry Brunetti
Bruce Newman

Larry Fedora, already running a successful program in Mississippi at USM. Mike Leach, who is trying to land a job coaching somewhere and says he would like to coach at Ole Miss. Pretty much the same thing for Rich Rodriguez. There are other names that have and will pop up.

I've said all along Ole Miss will have a new head coach by Dec. 10. That was my personal timetable and just a guess. I keep hearing from sources it might not take that long. A lot of things can still happen, and they surely have to get it right.

Because given the landscape of college football these days, especially among the SEC West brethren, there's no room for error. Could Ole Miss slip further? Not sure.

It's that bad now. This season Ole Miss lost to next door neighbors Alabama and LSU by a collective score of 104-10.

I repeat, 104-10.

LSU started taking knees with 5:10 to go at the Ole Miss 1-yard line. The embarrassment at that moment for Ole Miss might have been worse than one more touchdown.

"That's the first time it's happened to me," Nutt said. "But Les was just trying to be nice right there. And I appreciate it. But either way, it doesn't make you feel good. Les is a good man. He understands."

LSU was in this position a couple of decades ago. In one stretch, the Tigers had eight losing seasons in 11 years. Ole Miss beat the Tigers 32-0 in 1992, and LSU won two games that season.

I overheard a reporter call it the lowest point ever for LSU football. Things have surely turned around since then for the Tigers and their fans. So it can happen.

For Ole Miss and its fans, there were back to back Cotton Bowl wins to wrap up the seasons of 2008 and 2009. There can't be too many programs anywhere that fell this far this fast.

"I just didn't want to go out like this, not here in Vaught-Hemingway," Nutt said following the 52-3 setback, the worst loss by an Ole Miss football team ever to an LSU team. "There've been too many good ones."

Just not any lately. Not since LSU was here two years ago, actually. That was a 25-23 Ole Miss victory, and the last "significant" regular-season win for the program.

Now it's on to Mississippi State, where two years ago things began to truly unravel for Nutt and company.

"We're down to the Egg Bowl. It's a very important game," Nutt said. "I want our guys to go out the right way. This is a big week. The No. 1 reward is to bring back the Egg Bowl trophy. As tough as our season's been, this is very, very important. I expect our guys to be ready to go and really fight for this one."

There didn't appear to be much fight against powerful LSU.

"Sixty minutes left," Nutt said in his final Oxford postgame press conference.

In all honesty, this era of Ole Miss football has been over for a lot longer than that.

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