Ole Miss @ Georgia, Nov. 3, 2012
This was an interesting game for Ole Miss last year. You may recall it as the “Hot Seat Bowl” between Georgia coach Mark Richt and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.
At the time, the Bulldogs were 1-2 with losses to Boise State and South Carolina and had not beaten a Division 1 team. That would soon change.
Richt survived the season, Nutt did not. Georgia went on to win the remainder of its regular season games and was competitive for a half against LSU in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Last year's game in Oxford had the extra twist of coming on the heels of the Rebels' embarrassing 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt. Not that the Vanderbilt game should have been a blow-out win for Ole Miss but that the Rebels simply did not compete. It was Vandy's most lop-sided margin of victory against an SEC opponent in 40 years.
That performance prompted an unscheduled appearance by athletics director Pete Boone at the regular Monday football news conference.
That was also the day the first of the Forward Rebels newspaper ads calling for Boone's dismissal appeared in papers around the state.
What a week.
Basically, Boone said he needed to see more effort from the Rebels the following Saturday, and the Rebels delivered. The effort was there, the result the same.
Here's an excerpt from the Journal's Tuesday, Sept. 20 edition:
“I think we have some rare circumstances with the progression of the season,” Boone said. “There are obviously some disappointments, and I just felt like as opposed to walking around on egg shells it's time for he and I to have a good understanding.”
Boone said he did not discuss strategy with Nutt but told the Rebels' fourth-year coach he thought he should see more emotion from the team.
“Mainly from my perspective, probably a little bit more fire, a little more attitude,” he said.
Ole Miss was competitive for a time against Georgia. Finally the Bulldogs pulled away and won 27-13. The margin would have been larger, the outcome decided earlier had Georgia not missed three field goals.
The fact that this game comes so much deeper into the regular season won't be the only different feel about the rematch.
Georgia is expected to be among the favorites to return to the championship game, and there will be no discussion about Richt's future this time around.
The limited talent with which Ole Miss faced the Bulldogs in 2011 is thinner. This was a game in which Nick Brassell ran a reverse on a punt 81 yards for a touchdown. Brassell is gone.
The biggest thing to remember about Georgia is No. 11 – Connor Norman.
Norman is a walk-on defensive back who played big in special teams last year and earned the nickname “Aflac” by defensive coaches who considered him an insurance policy against injury in the secondary.
I remember Norman, because he's the son of my wife's first cousin. Is that still family? That makes him, what, a second-cousin-in-law?
Anyway, that other No. 11 is pretty good too, Aaron Murray, a returning All-SEC quarterback.
So entrenched is Murray as the starter that Richt is taking the unusual step of redshirting a junior quarterback, Hutson Mason. That created competition for Murray's backup spot, and redshirt freshman Christian LeMay was 7-for-10 for 154 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT in the spring.
The Bulldogs return their top five rushers, including sophomore Isaiah Crowell, and they also welcome heralded newcomer Keith Marshall, a mid-year enrollee who participated in spring drills.
While there is talent on offense, the story of this team will be defense where nine starters return from a unit that ranked No. 5 in the nation last season.
Junior linebacker Jarvis Jones and senior free safety Bacarri Rambo were All-Americans last season.