All posts by Acey Roberts

Acey is from the Jackson, MS area with an engineering degree from Ole Miss (the oldest engineering program in “Our State”), but doesn’t let his day job prevent him from displaying his passion for Ole Miss and SEC sports. While waiting for the day Ole Miss Football returns to glory, he objectively comments on the current news of the day. Acey is one of the founders of MakeItRainSports, contributing articles at Bleacher Reports and Fansided as well as Co-Hosts the MakeItRainSports and The Season Ticket radio shows on the VsportoNetwork. Loves BBQ and female fitness instructors; Hates commas and LSU. Follow on twitter @Aceyrob
Ole Miss' Jake Gibbs vs LSU 1960 Sugar Bowl

OM vs LSU Football 2016: Ole Miss’ True Rival

Today’s college football fans are certainly spoiled. There are usually more bowl games than eligible teams, there are more televised games than you could possibly watch and every game is a “rivalry” game.

In the SEC, teams have played each other long enough to develop endless story lines through the years and you have more than enough reason to drum up vitriol at your pre-game tailgate, no matter the opponent.

For Ole Miss fans recently, MSU has arrived at the Egg Bowl with something to play for besides a Belk or Weedeater bowl birth. Even though they haven’t been very successful against Hugh Freeze, the Egg Bowl means so much more than it ever has in the past, and has taken this rivalry to a new level (or a new low depending on your viewpoint).

Last year, both Ole Miss and State were playing for a Sugar Bowl birth which wasn’t been an option for MSU since WWII.

So, indeed, these are some heady days in Mississippi sports history. However, if you had to pick one team in the SEC to be your biggest clash of the year, I offer the idea that it should be the Louisiana State College to the South West over our little brothers to the South East.

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The recently coined, Magnolia Bowl, has only been in play since 2008 and has been held by the teams 4 years each, but there is a much longer and glorious history between these two teams that should sway your opinion closer to mine.

There are many things; both on and off the field, that sets the Ole Miss – LSU rivalry apart from other teams Ole Miss plays each year.

Ole Miss fans typically see LSU as the polar opposite of themselves. LSU is seen sometimes as the antithesis of the University of Mississippi.

But if you really pay attention, these two teams are closer than either fan base wants to admit.

Both Ole Miss and LSU are flagship schools in their state, holding both the medical and law schools for their respective states and as much as we hate to admit it, LSU is also a well-respected academic institution.

Both fan bases set the world wide standard for tailgating and support for their college football program. After a trip to a game at LSU, you will have a hard time denying that LSU fans love to cook and watching football, and it is questionable which is the greater love.

The opposing fans reap the benefits as you can sample some of the best southern and Cajun cooking anywhere in the state of Louisiana, right outside the gates of Tiger stadium. While it may be less formal, you will have to admit, a LSU pre-game cookout reminds you a lot of the Grove.

Historically, both teams shared a reciprocal “Go To Hell OleMiss/LSU” cheer just for each other that still continues today, no matter if the team is actually playing each other or not. They both shared the ‘Ole’ moniker for a while.  In the thirty’s LSU was nicknamed “Ole Lou” as a counterpart to “Ole Miss.”

And both teams thoroughly embraced the traditions and heritage of an old southern University.

Ole Miss was LSU’s first feature SEC opponent not named Tulane as the teams faced off in Baton Rouge in 1894. LSU was slightly late to the college football party as Ole Miss played a full 8 game season in 1894 with Alabama, Vanderbilt and Tulane on their docket before beating LSU 26-6.

LSU and Tulane became the hot ticket in South Louisiana for the next forty years. Oxford was stuck as a rural outpost that could not get top players or top opponents to visit Oxford.  The rail service in those days was spotty and rail lines un-reliable.  So it took a highway system and an ambitious young football coach from Texas to turn Ole Miss’ fortunes around.

Tulane and MS State’s programs began to fall away in the late 40’s which put the spotlight firmly on the Ole Miss – LSU series each year and for a period of time, this rivalry was as great as any College football has even known.

Because of the remote nature of Oxford, Ole Miss typically played LSU in Baton Rouge or Jackson, MS which made the series even harder for Ole Miss but Coach Johnny Vaught embraced the series.

Vaught said, “I liked to play ‘em (in Baton Rouge) because they were a great football team. We always got half the gate receipts from the games in Baton Rouge.  We’d make a lot of money, and we knew we could whip ‘em.  I always felt they had a lot of coaching changes (four during Vaught’s tenure) and they never did establish a great defense.” (Quote from Ron Higgins article in Times-Picayune 10/21/14).

Ole Miss beat LSU in Baton Rouge 6 straight games from 1952 to 1957 and it began to worry LSU fans and the administration. Finally, new LSU coach Paul Dietzel got wise and began to emulate the great Johnny Vaught.

“Ole Miss is responsible for the success we had. Dietzel said. “In that ’56 game, it was hot as the dickens in Tiger Stadium, and they played us with three teams while we were only good enough to play our starters.  By halftime, we were dead on our feet, so wore out you could squeegee us off the deck.  Ole Miss was fresh.”

By 1958, Coach Dietzel had followed Vaught’s recruiting plan by hiring the SEC’s second full time recruiter, after Ole Miss’ Tom Swayze, and was also using Ole Miss’ training and conditioning schedule, which included 20 full-pad 50-yard sprints at the end of every practice.

Dietzel ran this team for 21 sprints after every practice. Dietzel proclaimed his third team the Chinese Bandits after a popular comic book character at the time and LSU took off, finally beating Ole Miss for the first time under Dietzel in 1958 14-0, making the LSU-Ole Miss series a heavy weight knock out fight every year.

From 1958 to 1962, the SEC title was on the line every time Ole Miss and LSU faced each other. Ole Miss was undefeated in 4 of those 5 years and LSU was undefeated twice.  Only once in this period did a team have more than one loss (1960 LSU).

Four national championships were awarded during this five year stretch with LSU in 1958 and Ole Miss in 1959, 1960 and 1962.

Archie Manning helped continue the series through the late 60’s with two great come from behind games and contributed to the high rankings of both teams for the fall classic in Baton Rouge or Jackson.

From 1958 to 1973, 10 of those games featured at least one team ranked in the top 10 and conference titles were always within reach.

There has not been a greater series before or since in College Football with higher stakes on the line.

The Ole Miss – LSU rivalry lost a little of its luster during the 1980’s and 1990’s but the addition of the Magnolia Bowl trophy has rekindled the fervor between the teams to a championship level.

magnolia-bowl

With both teams back in the hunt for SEC and national titles, Ole Miss’ fans should consider LSU as your biggest rival.

If you need further proof, LSU stormed the field in Tiger Stadium after unsetting Ole Miss 10-7 in 2014.

If that is not a rivalry, I don’t know what one is!

 

Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Can Ole Miss Football Dominate Mississippi?

(Article originally printed in Rebel Nation Magazine – July/August 2016 edition  – www.rebelnationmagazine.com)

Walter Payton, Brett Favre and Jerry Rice are just a few of the many amazing athletes to come from Mississippi that did not play their college ball at Ole Miss. There are plenty of iconic athletes that did wear the red and blue but it is safe to say, not everyone can play in Oxford.  With the many different college options for high school athletes in this state, what will it take for Ole Miss to be the first option in Mississippi?  Let me offer it could happen in less than ten years.

Most of the SEC states are dominated by one major university.  LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, even Tennessee essentially dominates the state in football as Vanderbilt doesn’t pose too big of a threat.

Alabama can support two SEC teams with their larger population base and the long-term success of Auburn and Alabama, but Mississippi is the odd man out in the SEC equation.  A state with less than 3 million residents would be one of the smaller in the SEC to support one SEC school, but we have to support two.  It makes the margins razor thin when competing in the conference.

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Tulane’s ill-advised decision to leave the SEC, fully placing LSU as the premier University in Louisiana.  Tulane was arguably at least as good as LSU when the SEC began in the 1930’s culminating with an SEC conference championship in 1949, but Paul Dietzel and LSU’s success in the 50’s along with Tulane’s southern ivy league aspirations led to Tulane leaving the SEC.

It was a bad idea, but no one could conceive of the money the SEC would garner 50 years later.  In fact several schools left the SEC with hopes of greener pastures.  Georgia Tech left the SEC in protest of Bear Bryant’s Alabama squad and their brutal rivalry.

However, the biggest factors in New Orleans and Atlanta were the emergence of the NFL which siphoned off the fan base’s and regulated Tulane and Georgia Tech to the back seat.

Today we have another paradigm shift taking place in college athletics which has already shaken up the conferences and promises to do so in the future: CFB playoffs and television rights contracts.

ESPN and its competitors are writing huge checks to conferences for the rights to carry games and secure the advertising blocks of air time.  All major conferences are getting into the game but the SEC is garnering the top dollar and in order to continue to be the top dog will have to add (or potentially subtract) conference teams.

The SEC is now in a unique position to re-write the college landscape. If and when they choose to expand to 16 or possibly 24 teams, it will be an offer most teams would be smart to accept.

The most recent expansions saw the SEC venture into the larger television markets of Houston and Saint Louis. The driving force in the next round could be based on strictly match ups.

I know there is already a Florida team in the SEC, and I understand there are a lot of tv sets in the Washington DC area, but what would fans rather watch? The Gators blow out Virginia Tech or a knock down drag out game versus Florida State?  If the SEC wants to continue to be the premier national conference they must have the premier teams with national appeal.

Texas has shown they cannot survive on their own as the Big 12 and the Longhorn network are dying a slow death. They should be begging to get into the SEC and play nice.  Oklahoma’s AD and president should already be fired for not jumping into the SEC when Texas A&M made the smart move.

Florida State and Miami have to be mighty jealous of the checks Ole Miss and State are cashing at the end of the year.

super sec graphic 2

The next round of TV contracts will end in 2023-2024 and you should expect every team in the nation to be lobbying to be a part of a potential SEC super conference. Teams like Vanderbilt, Kentucky and MSU haven’t won a SEC football title since Kentucky last won in 1950.

If Ole Miss wants a chance to knock out MSU for good, this is their chance.

Hugh Freeze has established Ole Miss as a national team in recruiting and it is hard to say that he would take 20 kids a year from Mississippi even if he could. Unfortunately with all the talent in MS we do suffer with getting our kids eligible academically.

If you have a chance to sign the top wide receiver in Texas or the top wide receiver in Mississippi which one do you chase as a head coach? Dominating recruiting in Mississippi is a feather in the cap but honestly it may not win you the most games.

MSU has signed 20 more MS players than Ole Miss over the last four years. Both teams have won 34 games in the last four years but Ole Miss is 3-1 over State head to head.  MSU reached a top six bowl game in 2014’s Orange bowl but comparatively, Ole Miss has reached two top six bowl games.

If Ole Miss wants to truly dominate the home state, they just need to continue on their current path. Ole Miss is a top 10-15 team for 2016 while MSU is entering a re-building period with the graduation of Dak Prescott.  Ole Miss has some of the best facilities in the SEC and is one of the top national recruiters that will keep them on top.

By winning consistently, Ole Miss will be in the best position to survive the next round of expansion and possibly see MSU moved to a lower tier.

Photos via Ole Miss Media Relations

Band of Brothers: Ole Miss’ Family Legacy

Mississippi is a State of small towns and close knit communities. Family, for most of us is the most important thing in our lives. Where we go to college or play college sports is also largely based on family ties. We tend to follow our parents or older siblings up to Oxford; because Ole Miss is also a large part of our family.

(This article originally printed in RebelNationMagazine)

We are blessed to have followed and cheered for some outstanding football families at Ole Miss which make up our own “Band of Brothers,” and if you are lucky enough to have played beside your brother at any level you know how special of an occurance it is for those families.

Today we have the Nkemdiche brothers and the Moore twins on the team but we have enjoyed watching standout brothers play together at Ole Miss for at least 80 years.

One of the most famous lines of siblings to ever play at Ole Miss was one of the first. The Poole brothers of Amite County, Mississippi. Buster Poole only began playing football his senior year in high school when he transferred to Natchez High School in the mid-1930’s.

Buster’s obvious natural talents were quickly recognized and he was introduced to the game of football. He soon began teaching his brother’s in the back yard and thus began a family legacy that has so far resulted in over 50 athletic letters to family members of the Poole’s with the most recent member in 2004’s Rob Robertson.

Don’t forget about one of Ole Miss’ first All-American’s with Bruiser Kinard (35-37) and his brothers Henry and George; the great running back Merle Hapes (39-41) and his brothers Clarence and Ray, who can be found still in the record books for punt and kick returns. The Mannings, I don’t have to say any more than that.

I could fill this entire magazine with stories about Ole Miss athletic families but I had the chance to talk to three guys in particular that shared some insight into their time at Ole Miss with their brothers.

Belton Johnson hails from the very small town of Coffeeville MS and arrived at Ole Miss as a walk-on in Tuberville’s last year. After some hard work and a coaching change he was rewarded with a scholarship and in 2002 his brother Marcus was able to join him on the field.

belton marcus johnson

Belton and Marcus not only played together they played right beside each other and that brotherly connection helped make both of them better players that resulted in two pro careers.

“It’s one thing thing to be on the same team as your brother but how many people can say they played side by side with their sibling? My brother and I can. Marcus and I are so close to each other to this day, even though he’s coaching the offensive line at Duke and I’m living in Regina, SK, Canada. We Face-Time at least 2-3 times a week and text on a daily basis. Even before he got to Oxford, Marcus would always encourage me to never give up and I would always push him to be great. Marcus and I truly had and still have a unique bond. My mom (Glenda Smith) was so happy to have both her boys playing so close to home as it was only a 30 minute drive from Coffeeville to Oxford. Little did my mom know, we were happy to be close to home too, as mom would often feed the offensive line either at our place in Oxford or home in Coffeeville. LOL!!! Big grocery bills!”

John Fourcade was a read-option QB before there was such a thing and is still one of the top five Rebels in touchdowns in his career with 22. The Gretna Louisiana native was at Ole Miss from 1978 to 1981 along with his linebacker brother Keith (79-82).

To John, having his brother at Ole Miss was very important factor during his recruiting.

“When I was being recruited, for me to go to Ole Miss, my brother would have to get a scholarship. We played together in high school and I wanted him to get a big time scholarship. Having him on the team with me and as my roommate for a year was special, so our family could see us both play together.

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Keith made a name for himself up at Ole Miss; he was the leader in tackles one season. Being able to have your brother play with me for three years, made it easier for me to play. I knew on offense I would be the leader and on defense he would lead.

It was just a dream come true to watch him on defense and for him to watch me do my thing on offense.”

It is hard to find a family outside of the Manning’s that contribute more to the Oxford area than previous Oxford Mayoral candidate Todd Wade and his brother Justin.

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

The Wade’s played high school ball at Jackson Prep. Todd was an All-American offensive lineman from 1996 to 1999 and Justin was a linebacker from (00 to 03). Justin lets us in on some special moments of playing with Todd.

“Having a brother who had already played (for a while) on the collegiate level gave me great insight on what to expect when I arrived from the get-go. Just seeing how hard Todd worked at his craft was a great learning experience even when I was still in high school because he would workout consistently even when he was in Jackson for the holidays.

I really tried to duplicate what he did, but pretty quickly in two-a-days it was apparent I would be redshirting. He told me to work hard that first year but enjoy yourself. It didn’t take him long to come back to me and say, ‘Whooo! I didn’t mean for you to have that much fun!’

We went against each other a few times in practice but I was low on the totem pole. There is an unwritten rule that a younger brother should find his own way a bit and not get shielded by his brother.

You have to ultimately stand on your own and earn the respect of your teammates. The seniors that year (Todd included) planned a big hazing ritual which they had to endure as freshman by running down sorority row in only our jock straps! We were a little freaked out, this was not like (standing up and singing) karaoke, this was sorority row in my underwear! There was no doubt I was going to do it. I would never back down, but luckily Coach Cutcliffe caught wind of it and put an end to the idea. That was the best news I had ever heard!

Having the opportunity to play with and share those times with your brother was an incredible experience and I will always appreciate what I gained from it.”

 

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Dabo Swinney and Hugh Freeze: Christian College Coaches Under Fire

No matter your personal beliefs, America’s founding values allow us to worship and share our individual faith. It was so important to our founding fathers, it was the first amendment to the Constitution that makes up the Bill of Rights.

Our nation was founded in part due to the persecution and harassment of English people that refused to follow the “Church of England.” Catholics and other traditional protestants were labeled as traitors and criminal laws were enacted against Puritan worship services.

So, religious persecution is nothing new in the world and it continues even today. Even in the world of college football.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney will be facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11th with the national title on the line.

While both Coach Swinney and Saban are obviously great football coaches, Clemson’s Swinney expresses a personal faith that has put a bullseye on his back.

The Freedom From Religon Foundation has threatned lawsuit against Clemson due to Swinney’s out spoken Christianity.

According to the “Foundation,” Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state as stipulated in the Establishment Clause of the first amendment.

The Foundation is essentially saying that Swinney’s personal views as a high profile employee of the University borders on the official views of the University.

This is not a new fight or discussion. While the concept of a separation of Church and State is not expressly written in those exact words that was the intent of founding father Thomas Jefferson as a way to more easily explain the first amendment.

The key argument on both sides of this age old battle is do the kids or staff under Swinney’s control have the freedom to worship or not worship in their own personal way? And does Swinney’s faith and his expression of that faith somehow infringe on those under his control?

While I won’t be able to settle that argument here in this article, I do want to make the point that Swinney does have the personal constitutional right to express his faith. His right to do so should be supported by all Americans who enjoy the same right.

In the Deep South, high school football coaches are notorious for preaching in the locker room and using bible verses and biblical narratives in their motivational speeches.

If you have ever played high school football you probably had at least one coach like that and certainly in Mississippi, that is the rule rather than the exception.

But for some reason the idea of a college coach using these same lessons and stories of faith and struggle and perservance is seen as heresy or even hypocritical.

Ole Miss’ Coach Hugh Freeze is one of those preacher type high school coaches that happened to make the quantum leap to become a SEC head coach.

Photo by Kevin Cox - Getty Images

Photo by Kevin Cox – Getty Images

Freeze coached at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis for 13 years and is the son of one of those preacher type head coaches as Danny Freeze coached at Independence and Senatobia High schools in Mississippi. The younger Freeze no doubt grew up in that environment, learning from his father and other coaches and continues that model.

For Freeze, his faith is more than a model, it is even more important than football itself. He has said that football is just the platform, the opportunity, to impact the lives of people in the program.  Freeze said in a Washington Post article in 2014 that, “When my life comes to an end, how much does that scoreboard really matter?”

Given the fact that Freeze hold many of the same thoughts we all do as football fans in the South, why does his words cause so much concern.

I am willing to bet if anyone else said that same sentence, you would absolutely agree. But because a college football coach says it, there is some hidden sinister agenda behind his words.

As you would expect, rival fan bases and blog posts highlight this minority opinion.

Sage writer “DawgSmack” posts this gem from Maroon and White Nation that says Hugh Freeze’s Gospel is actually a Gospel of Hate.

The manager of MSU fan blog 3rdand57 had some interesting twitter posts recently that I think really highlights this thought that somehow big time college football coaches are not allowed or are incapable of having “core values” without lying or fabricating their faith.

beastman freeze faith invert

I understand rival fans are irrational but wow, when you stand back from a distance, it is really disheartening that fellow Christians can stand by and toss accusations like this without recognizing that we all struggle with faith.

We all fall short of the ideal. We are all hypocrites in that way and saying someone else is not perfect is holding a football coach up to a weirdly high standard that they wouldn’t hold themselves to.

Will Hugh Freeze make mistakes in his life, of course. Will God help Dabo Swinney beat the “evil” Nick Saban Alabama empire?  I hope my God has more to do on that Monday.

We need to stand with other men who are brave enough to take a stand and in the heat of the national media spotlight make their beliefs known.  Why would anyone work for a boss that only cares about winning and winning only?

Because at the end of our days, the scoreboard and the color of our jacket wont matter.

You don’t have to be a fan of Ole Miss or Clemson to appreciate men like Hugh Freeze and Dabo Swinney.

Worst sec message boards

THE WORST: SEC College Football Message Boards

Message boards. They are the worst thing that has ever happened to college football programs.

Period.

That is not up for debate. This is not an opinion piece, it is a un-deniable fact.

People in general are just nasty, dirty little anti-establishment creatures, I guess. There is something inside of us as a people that relish throwing stones at others.

So I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that when the internet comes along, people use it in nefarious ways.

If you have followed MakeItRainSports from the beginning you will know that we have never cared much for the anonymous trolling nature of message boards.

Today’s message boards are a written version of the bathroom/barroom conversations that have very little basis in fact and users try to build up their own ego by gathering attention rather than pass along factual information; because let’s face it, reality sucks sometimes.

Because message boards are a written record for anyone to peruse, it tends to hold more weight than a whispered joke in the back of a bar. The written word and ideas, no matter how ridiculous, can set off a “feeding-frenzy” and mob mentality rules.

The biggest problem for athletic directors at big colleges today is managing this anonymous, frustrating, sometimes hilarious, mob of people that really could care less about being fair or truthful, but just hate your program because of the color you wear or the town you are based in.

Of course not all message boards are equal, some are even more ridiculous than others. So the natural thing is to rank them right?

My criteria is the perceived distance from reality of the message board posters. Let me know how you rate these sites or others you have seen

5.  AuburnInside The Auburn Tigers (Scout)

Auburn pre-Cam Newton was one of the more friendly and enjoyable fan bases in the SEC. You had to feel sorry for Auburn fans and the punishment they have had to endure over the years with all the national titles in Tuscaloosa.

But with the success of Newton, some Auburn fans have taken the nuclear option in dealing with other teams and have adopted a self-appointed crown.

Since Cam they have only had one season with more than 8 wins, including one season with only three. Has that corrected their hubris?  Of course not, which is why ITAT is on the list.

4.  LSUTiger Droppings .com

While, LSU has been a dominate program over the last 10 years or so, the fans are never satisfied.  After a disappointing 8 win season (with a cancelled opener with McNeese State) fans took to leaving the stadium early and calling for the firing of Les Miles to a point that it would have happened if Jimbo Fisher wanted the job.

Tigerdroppings is the epitomy of crazy-football-fan-think. The only reason they are not higher on my list is that Les Miles does actually win 10-11 games a year.

3.  TennesseeVolnation .com

The worst thing that ever happened to Tennessee was Peyton Manning and Tee Martin. Tennessee fans have never gotten over the high of winning that national championship.  They are like Alabama before Nick Saban, living off accomplishments of the past and doing so in an annoying fashion.

For some of the best “lowlights” of VolNation we turn to our friends at Reddit – Dumbest of VolNation

2.  ArkansasHogville .net

Arkansas fans are interesting to me because I have never seen them as fully an SEC team or a SWC team.  They have always been on the fence.  At different times they have had huge rivalries with SWC/Big 12 teams and SEC teams.

Arkansas’ biggest problem as a fan base is they have no real in-state rival so they feel like they should be a powerhouse but they just aren’t that good and the fans are not willing to accept that.

This bunch of message board posters are ruthless however and have dug into the cell phone records of head coaches and their possible lovers.  Deadspin agrees, Arkansas fans are insane.

1.  Mississippi StateEliteDawgs .com

These geniuses think they are experts on Ole Miss more than their own team. This group is so bad at “message board-ing” they got kicked off an already crazy message board at SixPackSpeak because they were too crazy (if that’s possible).

So now, left to their own devices and with no real moderators they have developed conspiracy theories that would make Ancient Alien Theorists’ turn their heads.

Current topics being discussed are the secret Ole Miss recruiting booster network that has a recruiting cash budget of upwards of $2 million dollars in cash to pass to recruits.  And of course they think the NCAA is close to shutting Ole Miss down….

Un-Honorable Mentions:  All teams have “those type of fans” that seem to have lost touch with reality and don’t care who knows.  The following fan boards fit into the typical irrational love for their team.

Alabama – Bamaonline.com

Ole Miss – OM Spirit.com

Florida – Gatorcountry.com

Georgia – Dawgrant.com

Editors Note: The worst boards posted above are public boards and while there are no doubt some worse private boards we will at least give them credit for trying to hide their crazy.