Oxford, MS – The Ole Miss Black Bear Rebel Thingies choked on the cold November air in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium Saturday night…an opponent falling victim to Auburn luck yet again.
Ole Miss has enjoyed a storied season, but unfortunately, with a 2nd loss that most assuredly removes them from championship contention, that season won’t end in Atlanta…again. Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky are still the only members of the original 12 schools in the expanded SEC from the early 90’s that haven’t qualified for the championship game. There is always next year, however.
The Black Bear Rebel Thingies found themselves on the wrong end of Auburn luck that has now taken on legendary status:
• Multiple Ole Miss starters being injured prior to their game with Auburn that either greatly limited them or prevented them from competing altogether.
• A tipped Auburn pass on a critical 3rd down deep in their own territory, where five yards were needed. The pass, careening end-over-end off the finger tips of an Ole Miss defender, fell harmlessly into the waiting hands of an Auburn receiver exactly six yard from the line of scrimmage.
• Late in the 4th quarter, with the ball deep in Auburn territory, Bo Wallace carelessly extends the ball toward the marker, barely bumping an Auburn player’s helmet in the process. The ball pops loose, leading to a turnover.
And the kicker…
• Ole Miss receiver Laquan Treadwell breaking his ankle on the would be go ahead touchdown with roughly a minute to play. Only he didn’t score, but instead fumbled literally on the three inch line while he experienced his season, and possibly, career ending injury.
But don’t worry. If you’re an Ole Miss fan, you’re in good company. Many have been hit with the lucky mojo at the hands of Auburn. The Tigers are good, don’t get me wrong. Their offense is anyway. But show me a luckier team in the history of sport…any sport…and you will immediately demonstrate that you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.
Still, in a strange, bizarro world sort of way, Alabama finally benefitted from Auburn luck. With the Ole Miss loss, the Black Bear Rebel Thingies drop from the playoff conversation, and most assuredly the SEC Championship Game. The only loss the Tide owns came at the hands of the Black Bears, on a day when their team was at full strength. For once I didn’t care that Auburn never faces a team who is completely healthy. We needed an Auburn win to expand the ceiling for the 2014 campaign, and we got it.
With next week’s contest at LSU, and the final two league games within the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide is perched for a run at national championship #16. Auburn’s win wasn’t quite the same as the Iowa State upset of Oklahoma State and Baylor win over Kansas State in 2011, but it was definitely in the same family. And those of us within the Crimson nation offer a sincere “thank you” to our bovine lovers to the east.
From where I sit, Bama’s trip to a weakened LSU next Saturday night appears to be the toughest out in the final run to Atlanta. Not that Mississippi State and Auburn will be easy by any means, but the Tide has looked darn near unstoppable at home, where Blake Sims has looked more like Russell Wilson.
With Bama idle this week, TCU winning in dramatic fashion at West Virginia, and FSU and Mississippi State holding on (and Oregon stomping the Stanford trees), I don’t expect Bama to make a move from #6. TCU could move ahead to #5, with State, FSU, Auburn and Oregon rounding out the top four.
But with the Bulldogs and Auburn slated to appear on the Bryant-Denny threshing floor just ahead, it all, as they say, will take care of itself.