As an Ole Miss football fan, it’s been simultaneously hilarious and infuriating listening to Georgia fans vent about winning 10 games a year the past few seasons. You think the Bulldogs have it bad because they haven’t won an SEC championship since 2005? My team has NEVER gone to an SEC championship game. But, as the saying goes, we never lost a party. So I’d encourage you to make the seven-hour trek to my alma mater in Oxford, MS.
The Team: Georgia owns this series 32-12 and has won the past 10 matchups. But this ain’t the 3-9 Ed Orgeron team y’all beat by 28 at Sanford in 2007. In spite of their losses to Florida State and Alabama, the Rebels can hold their own—at least for a half.
The Dawgs roll into Oxford high off Jacob Eason’s miracle touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie to beat Missouri, while Ole Miss blew a 21-point lead against Alabama, then nearly came back from 18 points down in the closing minutes, and is no doubt desperate for a win. Against the Rebs’ stout front four, Eason will get hit more times than a Prince Avenue pedestrian, but if the Ole Miss defense is gassed in the second half like it was against FSU and Bama, Nick Chubb might rack up an AthHalf’s worth of yardage.
For Ole Miss, it’s all about No. 10: Chad Kelly (Jim’s nephew), the best quarterback in the SEC, who racked up 421 yards passing last week and is the team’s leading rusher, too. Also keep an eye on Kelly’s favorite target, tight end Evan Engram, a Powder Springs native.
The Tailgating: People love the Grove. In spite of its mystique, it’s really not all that different from tailgating on North Campus, except the frat boys are wearing blue blazers, and there are chandeliers in the tents. If you’re OK with the Old South milieu, everybody is super-nice and will be happy to share their bourbon with you (in a red Solo cup, of course). It’s probably not as bad as it used to be, anyway, considering the university recently got rid of the Colonel Reb mascot and “Dixie” with a surprising lack of fuss from the fanbase.
You may be wondering why the speed limit on campus is 18 miles per hour. Archie Manning’s number was 18. If you haven’t heard the name, he was the Herschel of Ole Miss, and his son is the doofus QB for the New York Giants.
The Town: As it has in Athens, a lot has changed in Oxford since my early-aughts heyday, but a few remnants of my misspent youth remain. The Kudzu Kings—a fun outlaw country band that includes ex-Widespread Panic guitarist George McConnell—are playing at Proud Larry’s Friday night. Here’s a song about the Rebel Barn, a drive-through beer store that was famous for selling mediocre barbecue and not carding, as well as being the only place to find cold beer—at least in wintertime, by virtue of being outdoors. (I believe this has changed, but it used to be illegal to sell cold beer in Oxford, rumor had it because a former mayor owned an ice company.)
Be warned: By law, bars in Oxford close at 1 a.m. If you still feel like throwing down, ask around about house parties, called “late nights” in the local parlance. Then, to soak up all the beer you drank, grab an Oxford delicacy, chicken on a stick, at the Chevron at the corner of Lamar and University.
City Grocery is considered one of the best restaurants in the country, but LOL if you think you’re going to get a table. Try Ajax instead. Or head down to Taylor Grocery about 15 minutes away for the best catfish in the world. It’s BYOB, and Lafayette County is dry on Sunday, so plan ahead.
John T. Edge, head of Ole Miss’ Southern Foodways Alliance and a visiting writer at UGA, was kind enough to offer a few suggestions, as well: “Canoodle in the alley is great for lunch. Saint Leo is new and very good Italian. Lamar Lounge for chili cheeseburgers beyond the scrum. Shelter on the Square for breakfast migas.”
Since William Faulkner is to Oxford as R.E.M. is to Athens, you won’t want to miss a tour of his lovingly preserved home, Rowan Oak, where you can gawk at his typewriter and the outline of A Fable written on the wall. Square Books is another must-see. Grab a cup of coffee upstairs and sit out on the balcony for a spell. Who knows, you might run into Katy Perry!
Our regular football columnist, Cy Brown, will return next week. Until then, Hotty Toddy!
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