Starting on Saturday, LSU will add to the ranks of trophy games.
The Tigers already play Tulane for the Tiger Rag, and the fairly recent creation of the Arkansas rivalry brought on the famous Golden Boot. Now both Ole Miss and LSU have combined to create the Magnolia Bowl, the winner of which receives the new Magnolia trophy.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said senior defensive tackle Marlon Favorite. “This being my last game in Tiger Stadium and obviously a rivalry game, it’s going to be highly competitive. You can call it what you want and bring it how you feel it, that’s really how I look at it.”
LSU players would do well to heed that advice. In a season that is perilously close to, or past the point of the term ‘unmet expectations’ in the eyes of many fans, the Tigers are on a six-game win streak against the Rebels. A win Saturday would give LSU its second-longest streak in the rivalry and the first win of the Magnolia Bowl era. Not even sixth-year senior Kirston Pittman, who played against Eli Manning in 2003, has experienced a loss to Ole Miss.
“They always play us close,” Pittman said. “[In 2003] I knew all about Eli Manning and his history, with his brothers and his dad. I was excited just to compete against the guy, and I was fortunate enough to run a stunt one time and get a hit on him. I was pretty excited about that.”
Reminiscences aside, it’s hardly a good time to drop a game to what would likely qualify as LSU’s biggest rival.
The Rebels 59-0 pasting of Louisiana-Monroe makes them bowl eligible after going 0-8 in the SEC in 2007, and finishing the season with wins against LSU and Mississippi State on the way to an 8-4 season would make first-year coach Houston Nutt the most beloved man in Oxford since Eli graduated.
And just as Saturday marks the beginning of the Magnolia Bowl, it also marks the end of prominent Tiger careers. Several LSU players commented on finishing up with such a significant event. Others also mentioned the celebration of LSU’s 1958 championship team during the game.
That team likely won’t need reminders of the significance of the Ole Miss game. As LSU celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first national title, it also honors Billy Cannon’s legendary punt return and goal line stand to defeat the Rebels, 7-3, on Halloween night in 1959.
“These are a group of guys that set the stage for LSU,” Favorite said. “If you think back to 1958 I wasn’t even thought of, my dad was a small baby at the time. 50 years from now, hopefully, I could make it back here and take a look at that 2007 banner … it’s huge.”
Be it Magnolia Bowl, Senior Day, or the coming together of many elements of the ’58 and 2007 teams, it certainly shouldn’t be missed.