Big Stage Set

Two undefeated, highly-ranked teams, a national TV audience, Game Day, a hard ticket, at our place with the best tailgating venue anywhere packed and on full display. It’s all right there in front of Rebel Nation. A once in a blue moon opportunity of late. That’s what awaits Saturday.

The stage is set.

The preliminaries are over, successfully navigated by an Ole Miss team that has shown excellent mettle and has, despite temptation, avoided the pitfalls of looking ahead too much. With due respect to the Rebs’ first four opponents, now real football begins. Now, we separate the wheat from the chaff.

Alabama, different in some ways but noticeably formidable, is still Alabama. They are one of the benchmarks of college football. Hate them, love them or something in between, their prowess historically cannot be denied and this year’s Crimson Tide contingent seems comparable to past editions led by Coach Nick Saban.

How will this Rebel team, a squad universally accepted in Rebel Nation as one of our best in quite some time, fare? Nobody will know until Saturday, but we can say this without hesitation. From last January to this point, this Ole Miss team has not had its sights set on a winning season. They have not had the goal of another minor bowl. They have not toiled resolutely day-in and day-out with thoughts of ULL and Presbyterian.

The Crimson Tide and those of their ilk – Tigers, Aggies, Hogs and Bulldogs – are the visions they have had dancing in their collective heads with each lift, each exercise to get better, each drop of sweat. Their focus has been unwavering.

It promises to be a football battle that will go down in our history, one way or the other. For excitement, pressure and fun, the game – and the surroundings – will rival or surpass the 2003 LSU game, still to this day the loudest moment in a stadium I have ever experienced when the Rebels scored first on an early pick six. Believe it or not, louder than Death Valley at night, louder than The Swamp, louder than Bryant-Denny.

There is no question the game, this game, will be the main attraction for the day. The eyes of the college football nation will be glued to what is happening in Oxford, MS, on the campus of Ole Miss.

While the game will be the centerpiece, here’s food for some serious thought. We will all be under the microscope, not just Hugh Freeze’s band of Rebels. While nothing is more important than the 60 minutes on the gridiron, there are other things to consider. This showcase will be more than a game of football.

You individually and us collectively will also be in a position to represent Ole Miss and send a message to the rest of the college football-watching world.

Just as the football team has a responsibility to represent itself, the university and us, we have a responsibility to represent ourselves, the team, the university and our state.

That day, we will be on display almost as much as the team. That’s the way Game Day works.

This is a golden opportunity for us to rid ourselves of some lingering, unfair perceptions and baggage of who we are and what we stand for. This is a golden opportunity to show the rest of the nation that Ole Miss and Mississippi are the best-kept secrets in the country. This is a golden opportunity to show everyone we are forward-thinking and forward-acting and not stuck in the past, which we all know is a false perception but one that seems to rear its ugly head every now and again as a reminder of past perceived and real transgressions and mores.

No venue or moment for relics or politics.

As Chucky Mullins, honored brilliantly and beautifully this weekend, was wont to say,” It’s Time!”

. . . for a Rebel uprising in the football game. The expectation here is for the Rebels to play possessed. That’s the only demeanor they should accept as a team and we should accept as a fanbase.

. . . for Rebel Nation to make this the hardest venue Alabama could ever imagine to play in. They should not be able to hear themselves think, much less operate comfortably, from the start to the finish. Period.

. . . to stop dredging up the past and moving on.

. . . for us as a fan base to show Game Day and the rest of the nation what we preach – class – and what we are - class.

This is what we all – the team, the coaches, the administration and the fans – have been waiting for.

“It’s Time” we all deliver and put our best foot forward.

The stage is set.

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