Ole Miss and Arkansas square off in Little Rock on Saturday with a lot on the line.
Win, and you can still make a bowl game.
Lose, and you'll probably be sitting at home this December, playing cards and drinking with your Auburn friends.
That's a lot of pressure - especially considering that neither school expected to be in this position a few months ago.
After a bye week and riding a two-game win streak, the Hogs will be fresh and ready to go at home, but Ole Miss is a surprisingly talented, well-coached team. Additionally, it can hang its hat on the fact that it has not embarrassed itself so far this season. (Middle-tier SEC football: where not being embarrassed by Alabama is a badge of honor).
With those high stakes, it's absolutely necessary to make sure you enjoy this week's game - and not just by drinking and eating all the weird things that you can find on the War Memorial Golf Course.
So with that, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the most important game of the 2012 season for Arkansas and Ole Miss. (Surely I can't be the only one who feels weird saying that out loud.)
Tip 1. Take a trip back to 2001. Mississippi's most famous author (and former Ole Miss postmaster) William Faulkner once wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." So what better way to relive the past than to watch some video of the 2001 Arkansas - Ole Miss game? The seven-overtime duel between Eli Manning and Matt Jones is easily one of the most memorable games in Hogs history.
Watch a short recap of the game here:
Watching the tape, it's fun to remember how the most incredible player on the field for four years was always Matt Jones. And damn, he was fast.
It's also interesting to notice that basically all of his running touchdowns came via the quarterback read option that so many teams (like Oregon) run today. The top rated comment on this video says, "If Matt Jones were coached by Gus Malzahn, he would have been Cam Newton." It's hard for me to disagree when I watch this video. However, the more essential question is this: which one of these players dresses better for press conferences?
Tip 2. Read about Ole Miss history. 50 years ago, Ole Miss' football team went 10-0 and won the SEC. They won the Cotton Bowl over, yes, Arkansas, and the Rebels claim part of a national title to this day, even though the pollsters said USC was the national champion.
50 years ago, James Meredith became the first African-American student at Ole Miss after Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett tried to stop him from entering the school and deadly riots broke out across the campus.
It's an interesting moment in southern history - a great football team playing against the backdrop of tumultuous, violent integration - and ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson wrote a fantastic story about Ole Miss in 1962 called "Ghosts of Mississippi" that is a must-read.
Thompson's story is a fascinating exploration of how football, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement came to shape the south, and Thompson's essential questions - What is the cost of knowing our past? What is the cost of not knowing our past? - are good questions to ponder 50 years after the Civil Rights movement.
Tip 3. Take in some Nutt.
This is maybe the best way to enjoy the weekend, because you can share the fun with your Ole Miss friends too. Swap stories about how many times you heard Dale use the word "special" or how you remember when "THAT WAS A CALLED PLAY, CHUCK" or how "YOU BETTER PUT HIM IN THE HEISMAN. LOU HOLTZ, MARK MAY, YOU BETTER LOOK AT HIM A LITTLE CLOSER."
One of the most enjoyable things to do on the Internet is to Google Image search for pictures of Houston. You stumble across gems like this picture:
Or this one (sweet flat-bill):
Or this photoshop:
Or this one:
Tip 4. Catch up on your Mississippi movies. There are a lot of fantastic movies set in Mississippi: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" "A Time to Kill." "Mississippi Burning." "Ghosts of Mississippi." Even "The Help" and "My Dog Skip" are set in Mississippi.
My personal favorite Mississippi movie might be "The Blind Side," but that's only for very specific reasons.
"Ole Miss cup, huh?"
Enjoy the game, everyone.