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Ole Miss serves notice to the nation

The Ole Miss Rebels went into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night with the hope they could prove themselves as worthy title contenders in the land of college football. For years, the powers in the SEC have always been the Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU Tigers, and Florida Gators. To a lesser and more inconsistent extent, the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers also belong in that grouping.

But Ole Miss? Ole Miss is just another school for those aforementioned teams to kick the crap out of for an easy victory and a bump in the polls. Nevermind that the Rebels beat Alabama last year in Oxford behind quarterback Bo Wallace, anything can happen once.

So it was with that backdrop and national perception that the Rebels took the field in the heart of Tuscaloosa to face the No. 2 Crimson Tide. No. 15 Ole Miss played with an unmatched passion from the start, getting out to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter before allowing a touchdown to close the halftime score to 17-10.

In the second half, Ole Miss came out firing and took a commanding 30-10 lead in the third quarter, only to watch Alabama slowly chip away. For all the world, it felt like Ole Miss was about to roll over and allow the Crimson Tide another incredible win on its home field when the score was 30-24. Then, something truly stunning happened, Ole Miss fought back.

The Rebels were able to go score-for-score until the score was 43-37 in their favor with less than two minutes remaining, when they secured a game-clinching interception. Ole Miss had slayed the dragon, and now the next question is where does it go from here?

At this point, it appears the SEC has a four-team race. Auburn and Mississippi State are afterthoughts, while Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are not worth mentioning. In the end, there is LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama, all ranked in the top 15 according to the Associated Press poll.

Ole Miss has the upper hand with Saturday’s victory, but it is far from out of the woods. The Rebels still have to face Florida in the swamp before hosting No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 13 LSU. It appears the Tigers could be the biggest challenge to the Rebels in terms of reaching the SEC championship game in Atlanta, with a hard-knock defense and a top-tier rushing attack.

Alabama is still in the race, but for once, it is not in control of its own destiny. Sure, the Crimson Tide would likely make the postseason if they run the table, but even by doing that the SEC title game is not a given.

The SEC is turned on its ear, and it is all because of the Ole Miss Rebels.

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