There's a reason a team rises to the number one ranking in the country.
All the platitudes apply - big, fast, strong, deep, smart, well-coached and on and on.
Those can easily be used to describe the Ole Miss Rebels' next opponent, the LSU Tigers, who are numero uno in the nation with two games remaining in the regular season.
"We are very excited, as coaches, about the opportunity to play the number one team in America. I know our guys will be excited as well. They have been off a few days and should be fresh and healthier," said Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson. "We are looking forward to it, but we understand the task at hand.
"We have Greg (Hardy) back and we should be real fresh and healthier than we have been, but we have our hands full, it goes without saying."
Thompson has been involved in big-time football for a long time - roughly a quarter of a century. He has been in the situation of playing a number one as an underdog twice before.
"I thought about that the other day when it looked like Ohio State was going to lose, and did lose," he recalled. "When I was at Alabama, we played Notre Dame when they were number one and had Tony Rice and Ricky Waters and Tim Brown, who won the Heisman. That didn't turn out too well.
"Then I coached against Alabama when I was at Southern Miss when they ended up as the national champs. I'm not sure if they were number one when we played them, but they ended up number one and we had a chance to beat them. We lost 17-10, I think. Those games are fun. They are challenging and fun."
The Tiger defense gets a lot of the ink because of Glenn Dorsey and the great talent they have on that side of the ball, but Thompson says he sees a lot of talent on the Tigers' offensive side of the ball as well.
"With the open week last week, I have been able to watch more film of LSU than of teams we have played without open weeks," he continued. "They have a lot of ammunition and I think (LSU Offensive Coordinator) Gary Growton does an excellent job of using his personnel and personnel groupings.
"And as I said last week when I talked to you guys (media), the guy who impresses me the most is (LSU QB) Matt Flynn. He is really a good, good quarterback. I can't say I'm surprised by that, but I have to say I didn't know he is as good as he is."
Thompson is more than a little bit impressed with Flynn's supporting cast as well.
"All their players have it. Speed, power - they have it all. Their wideouts are big and fast. Early Doucet, Brandon LaFell, Demetrius Byrd are all burners. You look at a guy like Jacob Hester, who can run over most, had an 87-yard run last week," J.T. noted. "They are very explosive with TB Keiland WIlliams. They are also very multiple. They can go from the spread to the power game to other styles very quickly. You just don't see any weaknesses in their attack at all.
"Their offensive line is very good and their center is the best I have seen in a long, long time. Top to bottom, they are just good."
Hardy returning after a two-game suspension will be a plus for the Rebels, John said.
"I don't think it will take Greg long to get back in the swing of things. I know we are looking forward to him being back out there and I'm anxious to see what he can do," said J.T. "I'm also looking forward to seeing how fresh and healed some others are. I have to believe Ashlee Palmer will be a lot better with a week's rest. He's been playing nicked up and gimpy all year, but he shouldn't be gimpy this week."
John did note LSU has given up 24 QB sacks and some significant pressure.
"I just told (DL Coach) Ryan (Nielsen) he was the key to the game. If we get a lot of sacks, we will win the game. I was joking with him, but Louisiana Tech pressured Flynn a lot and got to him a couple of times last week, but when they sent pressure and didn't get there, LSU burned them with big plays, so you have to pick and choose your opportunities when you send extra people," explained J.T. "What we are hoping for is a lot of pressure with our front four. The more pressure we can manufacture from our front guys, the better off we will be."
Thompson believes the Rebels will enter the game with confidence and a high level of intensity, believing they can knock off the top-ranked team in the country.
"Our guys know only a few plays have separated up from winning and losing in several games this year. They will not be intimidated. They will be energized and ready to go," he closed.
John Thompson -
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