Alabama rolls in with national championship aspirations on its mind. The Crimson Tide is ranked third, and a loss today would sideline those hopes at least for a while.
Last season it was Ole Miss that stopped a Florida Gator express that lost only once, 31-30 to the Rebels. Florida bounced back and won it all, never losing again.
Ole Miss is now in that position of having to win all the rest of its games to have any national title hopes. Once ranked fourth nationally, the Rebels are 16th in the coaches' poll and 20th in the writers' poll, even after a convincing but not runaway win at Vanderbilt last weekend.
Ole Miss has tasted victory over Florida three times this decade in four meetings. The Rebels broke a six-game losing skid to LSU last season with a win in Baton Rouge. Ole Miss has beaten Mississippi State five of the last seven times the two have met. The Rebels took Auburn down at home last season.
But it's Alabama that remains the biggest hurdle for Ole Miss to get where it wants to be. To get to Atlanta to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, a win today is almost a must.
Not a for sure. No, it won't be over for the Rebels' run to the Georgia Dome if they lose to the Tide. But let's be realistic. Their work will be more than cut out for them.
Alabama isn't invincible. It rarely is. Good, yes normally. But unbeatable? Not usually. The Tide hasn't been unblemished since 1992.
But Ole Miss finds it the toughest nut of them all to crack.
Last year, a four-point loss. The three previous years, all three-point losses.
That means the Rebels are indeed in the ballgame, but it also means they aren't doing enough to win. They're falling short of what it takes to get that victory over their next door neighbors.
What Ole Miss lacks in confidence against the Tide, Houston Nutt makes up for. Alabama isn't the only team the Rebel head coach has had success against during his tenure. A win Saturday would be vintage Nutt, taking advantage of the fact that not many predict a Rebel victory. In a way, he's got things right where he wants them.
The Rebels seem to be pretty healthy. Gerald Harris may give them something. Andy Hartmann, too. Greg Hardy will. You know he's got getting to Greg McElroy on his mind right now.
There isn't quite the buildup we thought we'd see for this one. Oh, Oxford's full of folks, and the nation's still talking.
But can you imagine what things would have been like had the Rebels gotten out of Columbia with a win, and both teams had been undefeated? And Gameday had been here?
That was the dream until the loss to South Carolina. But just because they lost that one doesn't mean a win today won't get them right back on the road to Atlanta.
It will. And a Florida win tonight at LSU would help, too. That one has the No. 1 Gators and the No. 4 Tigers in an SEC showdown.
The goals the Rebels had since winning the Cotton Bowl remain. They can still get to Atlanta.
But a win today is critical to keep the dream alive.
Hasn't it been that way a lot of years when Alabama is up next on the schedule? How would some years have been different if the Rebels had just gotten a win against the Tide?
Now it's all about today and seeing if they can take care of business this time. Nutt's teams usually win one or two a season like this one.
Maybe today's the day. Certainly, Ole Miss is due.
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