I’ve already added the results of the game to the “Series Notes” on my LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog.
Bleacher Report did a video, Best Darkhorse Bets to Win BCS Title, during the week about three sleeper teams that could end up winning the national championship. I was happy when Louisville (the first team who played) lost, because it bothers me when teams are ranked that high this late into the season after not really playing anyone. I got worried when South Carolina (the second team) lost, and I got really worried once it turned out that Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida also lost to what were second-tier SEC teams last season. Of course LSU (the third team) then lost to Ole Miss,
I never rest easy against Ole Miss, particularly not on the road, so I can’t say I’m shocked by the loss. But it makes me sick that it wasn’t so much Ole Miss playing a great game as it was Zach Mettenberger getting greedy on a bit of an off night. There was no reason for it, at least not three times. The running backs did well. There were a lot of receivers consistently open at shorter distances. At times, I thought Mettenberger was the clear successor of Matt Mauck and Matt Flynn; but even though Flynn also lost two games his senior year, he never played like this.
The only reason the Rebels ended up scoring so much was the amount of time the turnovers forced the LSU defense to remain on the field. The defense had opportunities to shut down Ole Miss at the end, which was frustrating; but that likely would have only put the game into overtime, where there is no reason to believe LSU would have necessarily won.
I knew in preseason that Ole Miss had the ability to win games such as this one, I was just hoping it would be against other teams obviously. Even though they’ve had some injuries and so forth, nearly every starter from last season returned. That kind of experience can give a team the ability to hang in there for a game like this. They really should have beaten Texas A&M last week. The main difference to me was the Aggies were only a touchdown behind at the most, so their early play gave them enough of an advantage to win.
Also, there have been a lot of close games in recent years in the series even though Ole Miss hasn’t always been very good. LSU did blow out the Rebels on their last trip to Oxford in 2011, but Ole Miss won by two in LSU’s previous trip to Oxford in 2009 when the Tigers took too much time and couldn’t stop the clock in the last second. Last season’s game was also close, with LSU winning by six.
There were a few other close games of note in the last 10 seasons. The Rebels only won 4 games in 2010, but they still only lost to LSU (who finished 11-2) by a touchdown. The teams had the same exact final records in 2006, when LSU won by a field goal in overtime. Ole Miss also only won 4 games in 2004; but they were only a field goal short of LSU, who finished that season with 9 wins.
LSU’s loss left Alabama as the only team that finished in the top 6 of the conference last season that was spared today.
Both the Tide and the Missouri Tigers are in pretty good position to win their respective divisions. Alabama leads everyone in the West except Auburn (who lost to LSU but who now controls its own destiny) by at least two games, and Missouri leads everyone in the East by at least two games. Mizzou and Bama do not play one another, at least not before the SEC Championship game.
Tennessee played very well against both Georgia and South Carolina at home, but I wonder how well that level of play will transfer to a road game in Tuscaloosa. After that, Alabama’s other remaining conference games are against LSU at home, at Mississippi St., and of course at Auburn.
Missouri certainly doesn’t have an easy road the rest of the way. South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M will visit; and the Tigers will travel to Lexington and Oxford.
As a final note, I wasn’t a big fan of adding Missouri, especially not to the SEC East as currently configued, but I like the conference to be competitive from top to bottom, and–with the exception of Kentucky in the last couple of seasons (only two wins, one of them against Ole Miss, in their last 19 conference games)–it has been. Missouri was one of the teams that lost to allow LSU into the title game in 2007, so they’re not exactly strangers to the top of college football. I wonder how consistent they’ll be, but there have to be some inconistent programs in the conference.