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Column: Reasons to beat each of the Rebels’ 2021 opponents

Column: Reasons to beat each of the Rebels’ 2021 opponents

We are inside a month before kickoff of the 2021 football season, and each preseason most publications run a piece detailing the opponents each team will face that year. The stories normally have the same information in them: last year’s record, returning starters, potential star players and such.

The Rebel Walk likes to think a tad differently than most other media outlets. We strive not only to inform our readers, but to also entertain them a bit.

Here you will find a reason for Ole Miss to beat each opponent.

LOUISVILLE: September 6 at Atlanta

The Cardinals have been playing football since 1912 with some success. They have had a Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson, won eight conference championships in three leagues and are 11-11-1 in bowl games.

Louisville can boast such players as Johnny Unitas, Lenny Lyles and Tom Jackson. 

Jackson, a linebacker who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played at Louisville for a coach with a familiar name. He played for Lee Corso.

Corso coached the Cardinals from 1969-72 and posted a respectable 28-11-3 record and had the team ranked as high as 18th nationally. But the former Louisville head man is known for something else in Oxford.

In 2014, Corso was a part of the ESPN Gameday cast that broadcast live from The Grove prior to the Rebels’ taking on Alabama. In the show’s prediction segment, he donned the Bama mascot’s elephant headgear to indicate his prognostication of a Crimson Tide victory. 

Ole Miss beat Alabama 23-17 that day.

It was nice to prove Corso wrong. It will again be a pleasure to beat another Corso team.

AUSTIN PEAY: September 11 in Oxford

First, APSU has one of the coolest cheers in college football. It is always humorous to hear thousands of fans chant, “Let’s Go Peay!”

A quick history lesson: Austin Peay was the governor of Tennessee from 1923-27. During his tenure he signed the Butler Act into law, making it illegal to teach the theory of evolution in Tennessee schools. That law was later challenged and argued between attorneys William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow in what became known as the Scope’s Monkey Trial.

But the coolest thing about Austin Peay in pop culture is it is the school where Lewis Lastik played. For those who are having a brain cramp, Lastik was the rotund offensive lineman featured in the 2000 movie, Remember the Titans.

Ole Miss will be heavy favorites over the Govs, but it is hard to root for a team that yearly battles all other Tennessee schools for the Seargent York Trophy. 

TULANE: September 18 in Oxford

Tulane is one of the only schools, if not the only one, that has a nickname based on a song. In the 1920’s, the New Orleans university adopted the name Green Wave from the tune, “The Rolling Green Wave.”

The song was written by Earl Spradlin who was the editor of the Tulane student newspaper, The Hullabaloo. 

Like Ole Miss, Tulane has gone through a few incarnations of its mascot. The earliest is believed to have been a pelican riding a surfboard while the team was known as the Olive and Blue. Other mascots included a mischievous boy named “Greenie,” an angry wave, a simple block “T” with two waves crossing it, a mythological deity – believed to either be Neptune or Poseidon – and again an angry wave named “Gumby.”

Tulane will bring a pelican mascot named “Riptide” to the Vaught this season. 

The school is also the only to host Super Bowls in two of its former home stadiums. The Louisiana Superdome has hosted the Super Bowl seven times, while Tulane Stadium has been the host venue three times. The Dome is also scheduled to have the game in 2024.

Again, the Rebels will be heavy favorites, but there must be some empathy for a fellow school with mascot issues.

ALABAMA: October 2 at Tuscaloosa

Alabama is known as the Crimson Tide, and the crimson part must come from the fact they are red-handed thieves. Tide fans love their “Rammer Jammer” cheer. They scream it before the game begins, and if the team wins, augment it after the game in the past tense.

But how did that cheer surface in Tuscaloosa? Simple. They stole it. Those thieving Bamers took “Hotty Toddy” and attempted to make it their own.

Donica Phifer of the Oxford Eagle explained the larceny quite eloquently in the Oct. 19, 2017 edition of the newspaper:  “What can unequivocally be determined is that ‘Hotty Toddy’s’ reach extends far deeper than just the Ole Miss faithful. Alabama’s ‘Rammer Jammer’ chant is a sibling, taken by former Pride of the South band director Jim Ferguson and rebranded for Bama fans. 

Ferguson was in charge of the Ole Miss band from 1966 to 1971 and then left to take over the Million Dollar Band at the University of Alabama. 

“He adapted the ‘Hotty Toddy’ cheer to suit Alabama; thus, the ‘Rammer Jammer’ cheer,” current Pride of the South band director Bill DeJournett told Gridiron Now in Sept. 2016. According to Gridiron Now, the Alabama cheerleaders helped Ferguson rework the cheer, taking ‘Rammer Jammer’ from one of the university newspapers and adding Alabama’s state bird, the yellowhammer. 

“‘Give ‘em hell, Alabama,’ which finishes off the cheer, was a routine call for ‘Bama fans during the Bear Bryant era,” Gridiron Now said.

That might have been the best-written arrest report in history. 

ARKANSAS: October 9 in Oxford (Homecoming)

Not only is Razorbacks a unique nickname (Texas A&M-Kingsville is officially the Javelinas, a distant relative to the hog), it is unique to the state. 

The first of the wild boars are believed to have been brought to Arkansas by Hernando DeSoto, although Christopher Columbus introduced them to the New World in 1493. Many of the domesticated boars escaped their pens and mated with their wilder counterparts. Nowadays, the feral hogs are common in over 50 counties in Arkansas.

The Razorbacks won the 1964 national championship and staked a claim to the 1977 title when Arkansas went 11-1 with its only loss coming to Texas, 13-9. Notre Dame was rewarded with the national championship after finishing 11-1 and beating the Longhorns 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl. 

Arkansas finished third behind Notre Dame and Alabama that year. The Crimson Tide was ranked second after finishing 11-1 and beating Ohio State 35-6 in the Sugar Bowl.

The Hogs claim their stake of the championship after beating Oklahoma 31-6 in the Orange Bowl.

Still, Notre Dame beat the team that beat Arkansas by four touchdowns, so come on, they deserve the title. It is easy to want to see such crybabies get beaten, especially in a homecoming game in Oxford. 

TENNESSEE: October 16 at Knoxville

Tennessee vs. Ole Miss has a bit of history when it comes to the Manning family. After Peyton signed with UT, he played the Rebels twice and won both meetings. But the most-famous game was the one that give birth to the “Archie Who?” rallying cry.

In 1969, Tennessee was ranked third when they came to Jackson to face the 5-3 Rebels. In the week leading up to the game, UT linebacker Steve Kiner was asked about his team’s chances against a team that had a lot of horses. Kiner replied, “they played more like mules up here last year.”  

Kiner followed that up with another gaffe. When asked about Rebel quarterback Archie Manning, he replied, “Archie who?” He found out that Saturday as Manning led Ole Miss to a 38-0 victory.

Tennessee also has some felonious ways like Alabama when it comes to Ole Miss. Rebel coach Billy Brewer introduced the “Walk of Champions” in Oxford during the 1985 season to allow his players to experience the atmosphere of The Grove. In 1988, Tennessee coach Johnny Majors came up with the “Vol Walk.”

Another reason to want to see this orange-clad bunch to go down is they don’t even respect their own traditions. The Tennessee fight song is, “Down the Field.” Yet these checker-boarders seem to think it is “Rocky Top.”

That song is enough reason to want to see UT shutout. No scoring, no annoying song. 

LSU: October 23 in Oxford (Eli Manning Day)

The LSU medical school is in New Orleans, not too far from Baton Rouge. The powers that be at LSU might want to book a road trip to visit the psychiatric department. Their fans seem to suffer from amnesia.

Two of the Tigers’ biggest wins in school history were followed by historic losses. 

In 1959, a muddy win was followed by two losses.

LSU fans famously boast of Billy Cannon’s Halloween night run. Cannon ran a punt back 89 yards for a touchdown to beat Ole Miss 7-3. However, the next week, LSU lost to Tennessee 14-13.

Still, the Bayou Bengals secured a berth in the Sugar Bowl. There LSU found an Ole Miss team that was on a rampage and beat the Tigers, 21-0.

Another bunch of sore losers, LSU claims FIVE national champions they did not win. The Tigers say they won the national title in 1908, 1935, 1936, 1962 and 2011.

The second historic Tiger win came during that 2011 season.

Nov. 5, 2011, LSU edged No. 2 Alabama, 9-3, to win the SEC West and then went on to beat Georgia in the conference championship game. But the Tigers fans seem to forget a few weeks later, Alabama shut them out 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.

Any team that believes it won the national title over a team that buried them has truly too much hot sauce in its gumbo. 

AUBURN: October 30 at Auburn 

First, Auburn does have something cool going for it. Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton each won the Heisman while playing for the Tigers. That fact makes Auburn the only school that has a Heisman Trophy winner from a school at which John Heisman coached.

Other than that, Auburn has a way of blaming others for losses.

In 1969, the Tigers were set to visit Tennessee at Neyland Stadium which had recently had artificial turf installed. Auburn coach Shug Jordan called his UT counterpart, Doug Dickey, to ask what kind of shoes the Tigers should wear on the new field. Dickey told Jordan regular cleats worked quite well.

When Auburn took the field, Jordan discovered the Vols were not wearing cleats, but turf shoes. Tennessee won 45-19 and Jordan blamed the loss on the footwear. Had Jordan overseen the D-Day invasion, they would be speaking German in Auburn.

Auburn also ignores it when they steal a win.

Just last season, Auburn beat the Rebels 35-28. The game’s pivotal play was a “non-fumble.” Ole Miss had punted the ball, and it bounced toward an Auburn return specialist. The ball touched the Tigers’ return man’s finger and rolled into the end zone where the Rebels’ Tylan Knight jumped on it for an apparent touchdown. 

The officials ruled the ball was never touched by the Auburn player and the play was ruled a touchback. Auburn got possession of the ball and drove for the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Replays show the Auburn player indeed touched the ball. Despite video evidence, Auburn fans insist the ball was never touched.

Any team that ignores a play that gave them a win and blames others for their losses cannot expect to have objective fans to root for them. 

LIBERTY: November 7 in Oxford

It would be easy to pile onto the fact Hugh Freeze will be returning to Oxford with his Liberty team. Sure, Freeze left Ole Miss amid a scandal that cost the Rebels in a big way in reputation and money.  

But let’s talk about the money.

When the contract for this game was signed in 2017, the year after Freeze left Ole Miss and two years before he was hired at Liberty, it was the highest guarantee the school had ever received. Ole Miss will pay the Flames $1.5 million for the game. In future games, Liberty will receive $1.25 million from Auburn and $1 million from Rutgers to play them.

Virginia is reportedly serving as Liberty’s most-lucrative ATM. The Flames will go to Charlottesville six times and receive a healthy check for each visit. Liberty should net just short of $2 million for the bus trip to UVA.

Forget wanting to beat Liberty as some sort of revenge on its coach. Ole Miss just needs to get its money’s worth in the game. 

TEXAS A&M: November 14 in Oxford 

It is not easy to find something to hate about Texas A&M. From the Midnight Yell to the 12th Man, to Reveille, A&M has some cool things going for it. 

They even have a guy named Jimbo that is a multimillionaire.

In 1981, cadet Greg Hood was suspended by the school for brandishing his saber after an SMU cheerleader pushed him over another cheerleader in the old “table” trick. Hood’s response makes it hard to root against the Aggies.

Its location and lack of history in the conference makes the Aggies kind of an afterthought when it comes to schools that should have built up a great deal of hate toward them.

Since joining the SEC, A&M has not really settled on a rival. It wants to claim LSU, but the Tigers would rank the Aggies third on its rival list behind Ole Miss and Alabama. Arkansas could serve as a rival from the old Southwest Conference days, but that matchup just is not attractive. As the late Lewis Grizzard once said, “It’s two mules fighting over a turnip.” That sums that one up.

So, if no one is going to hate Texas A&M, Ole Miss might as well do it. At least until Texas gets back on the schedule. 

VANDERBILT: November 21 in Oxford 

Like Texas A&M, it is not easy to find a reason to hate Vanderbilt.

Okay, it is sort of dumb that the nickname is the Commodores. It is a former Naval rank, and the state of Tennessee is landlocked. But the namesake of the school does have something going for him. Cornelius Vanderbilt was such a stick in the mud, legend holds he would frequent a restaurant in New England and constantly complain about how thick the fried potatoes were. Tired of the abuse, the chef cut a potato as thinly as possible and then deep fried them. Reportedly, Vanderbilt loved them. They are still around today – we call them potato chips.

And as an old SEC football saying goes, “Don’t beat Vanderbilt too badly; we will be working for them someday.”

It just is not easy to find a reason to dislike Vandy. Oh yeah, they choked in the College World Series to allow the folks in Starkvegas to have a championship.

Damn you, Vanderbilt. 

MISSISSIPPI STATE: November 25 in Starkville

State sucks. Period. 

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for, and as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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