One of the greatest parts of college football is the spectacle of it all. From bands and tailgating, to storied rivalries and traditions, the stories transcend the game itself and are what draw us back every Saturday.
No institution more clearly exemplifies that fact than Ole Miss, where the suit and tie crowd mingle in the Grove on gameday, awaiting kickoff in what is arguably the nation's most difficult conference.
However, that tradition had been tainted over the last five years. Since "the year of the prodigal son" (2003), there hasn't been much to Hotty Toddy about than beating Memphis on a routine basis.
Oh, how far we've come.
Fans often underestimate the effects of a losing mentality. It's not something that can simply be overcome on a whim, but a process that, if handled improperly, can cause irreparable damage.
As losses began to pile up in 2007, the spirits of the players faded with them. Last season was easily one of the darkest in a celebrated Rebel history, with not a single SEC victory to show for it. The three win plateau was common place, with the days of 10-3 and capacity crowds a faint afterthought.
Oh, how far we've come.
Earlier this season an 8-4 (5-3) finish seemed incredibly optimistic. A Vanderbilt embarrassment here and South Carolina loss there had placed the proverbial nail in the coffin. Heck, 6-6 was a pipe dream.
There was no silver lining. No miraculous finish on the horizon. The stench of losing would forever take its toll and no Ole Miss enthusiast would have a say in the matter.
(Key the inspirational music)
Ok, so there is a point to this tiring monologue. A change has swept through Oxford and boy, has it been refreshing. Sure this season had its bumps along the way, but once the invitations were accepted for the 73rd AT&T Cotton Bowl, the entire season came full-circle.
There's something eerily familiar about this bowl season. Dare I compare it to 2003? By golly, I think I might.
Five straight wins sent the Rebels to Dallas, with exceptional defense and clutch quarterback play leading the charge.
Victories over Florida, Auburn and Arkansas sparked a movement and the glorified scrimmage deemed the Egg Bowl ended in trouncing fashion.
Anybody else have a case of déjà vu?
The Rebels are returning to Texas as one of the hottest teams in the nation (again). No. 7 Texas Tech, a formidable Big 12 juggernaut this season, will be their opponent. Both teams carry potent scoring attacks, as each rank in the top-5 of their respective conferences in total offense.
You can't hide the similarities. The last time such a stage was set, the Rebels defeated Oklahoma State, 31-28 in the 2004 Classic.
Two top-20 teams will meet again in front of what will be a record-breaking crowd. Jevan's coming home and Houston Nutt has some unfinished business. But more importantly, a feeling circa 2003 is forming.
Call it a reunion of sorts.
OM Spirit Top Stories
Tuesday Ole Miss Recruiting RoundupScout released their "trending" meter for the top 300 uncommitted prospects in the country. Where does Ole Miss stand with their key players off of this list?
OM Spirit11:58 AM
Which SEC School will Labryan Ray Select?Labryan Ray has come to the conclusion that he will play in the Southeastern Conference, but for which school? The No. 9 defensive end in the country discusses his recruitment here…
Scout Football11:21 AM
Patterson Confident in Line Despite InjuriesOle Miss Spirit correspondent Kate Robison recently spoke to Ole Miss guard Javon Patterson about injuries on the offensive line, the progression of freshman Greg Little and facing…
OM Spirit6:00 AM