BATON ROUGE, La. — Two days before his LSU squad heads to Oxford in search of its third straight win, LSU coach Ed Orgeron on Thursday said he considers the contest against Ole Miss to be a “must-win” game.
“Throughout the week we’ve been talking about going to Oxford, Miss. Last time we were there that team was on fire. It will be a battle,” Orgeron said. “They’ll play a lot better than what we’ve seen on film. I understand this is a rivalry game. It’s a must-win game for us.”
But he promises it isn’t a must-win for the reason you probably think.
Though there is obviously a highly personal angle to the rivalry for Orgeron, who coached at Ole Miss from 2005-07 before getting fired, returning to Oxford is actually old hat for him. This may be his first time back as a head coach, but Orgeron made his way back to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as Tennessee’s defensive line coach in 2009 and LSU’s defensive line coach in 2015.
There probably won’t be any new jeers that he hasn’t already heard from the Rebel faithful.
“This is my third time back. It’s another game for me, and I can honestly say that,” Orgeron said. “I want this win for our players. Whatever happened in Oxford is a long time ago. We’ve moved on.”
For Orgeron, Ole Miss is a must-win opponent because it’s Ole Miss. For LSU players of his generation and older, the Rebels were the SEC rival everyone circled the calendar. Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run lives in LSU lore not just because it was great, but because it took place against Ole Miss.
“It’s LSU-Ole Miss,” Orgeron said. “This is for the fans. This is for the players from the ’70s. Ronnie Estay chasing down Archie Manning. This is for our players. This is a battle of border states. Bragging rights. This is what college football is about.”
Alabama, LSU’s opponent after the Rebels, is the one that stirs the drink for LSU fans in the last decade. But Orgeron made it clear his team has to take Ole Miss just as seriously as the Crimson Tide for that game to have any real meaning.
“The thing about LSU is there is a rivalry almost every week,” Orgeron said. “We have bigger rivals down the road, but we have to take care of this first.”