PARRISH ALFORD: Rebels must regroup, return to the Heart of Dixie

PARRISH ALFORD

PARRISH ALFORD

OXFORD

No. 1-ranked Alabama has a way of reminding challengers about their place in the SEC.

It may not be pretty. It was hideous for Crimson Tide fans in College Station, but no less effective.

It may be a work of art, as it was when those fans celebrated their team’s second-half dominance of Ole Miss.

The Rebels now find themselves at 3-1 traveling to face the SEC’s other Alabama team. Over time, Auburn has been almost as successful at its home against Ole Miss as Alabama has.

This time each year, the Rebels’ disappointing history in Tuscaloosa emerges – just one win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Well, there are just two Ole Miss wins in 15 tries at Auburn, the last in 2003 when the three-letter guy was quarterback.

Not many expected Ole Miss to upset No. 1 Alabama, but very many expected a better showing from the Rebels’ offense.

Shut out for the first time in 15 years, Ole Miss is now faced with the emotions that go along with a humbling loss, something a program that fashions itself as one on the rise hasn’t dealt with since early last November.

It’s not the loss but the performance that has lingering potential.

While last year’s close defeats against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU were frustrating, there was the side benefit of seeing program growth.

“To me those were easier to take than this one. I’d never been shut out. The last couple of nights … I’m still kind of upset about it,” Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Since Georgia manhandled the Rebels in Athens, Ole Miss responded by nearly upsetting LSU in Baton Rouge and winning its next five games. A run-away bowl victory and a top 10 recruiting class carried the off-season.

Now Ole Miss is faced with getting off the mat, with refocusing on the road against an opponent that mirrors the drive and hunger the Rebels showed in 2012.

“I think they play a lot harder than they did last year,” Wallace said.

It’s an unusual position for the Rebels, who will have to dig deep against an Auburn team they’ll match up well against but one that can strike with the big plays that hurt Ole Miss against Alabama.

The Rebels need to match Auburn with drive and hunger.

The similarities between these programs aren’t only about last year. Both of them are still trying to upset the established order of the SEC West.

It’s no easy task for either, even an Ole Miss team with a head start.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc .com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.