Revisiting the storied past of the Ole Miss-Alabama rivalry

Posted on Sep 14 2018 - 5:50am by Justin Dial

Ole Miss and Alabama will meet in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday for the 66th installation of their storied rivalry.

The two teams first met back in the 19th century — once in 1894 and again in 1899 — and played their games in Jackson. They traded wins in those ancient matchups, and what would ensue for the Rebels is less than ideal for the Ole Miss faithful.

Ole Miss students storm the field after defeating Alabama in 2014. Photo by Cady Herring

Alabama leads the all-time series versus Ole Miss with a staggering 53 wins over the Rebels and only 10 losses. However, the lopsidedness of the series does not detract from its importance — both historical and current — to each fanbase.

Other than two ties in 1909 and 1933, Ole Miss managed only one victory over the Crimson Tide in the span of 23 games dating from 1900-1967.

In 1964 the Rebels and the Crimson Tide met in the Sugar Bowl. This meeting marked the first and only time in the rivalry’s history that the game was played outside of Mississippi or Alabama. The Tide continued its dominant run, winning a close 12-10 game in New Orleans.

That was before a student by the name of Archie Manning lined up under center for the Rebels.

Manning led the Rebels to a 10-8 win over the Crimson Tide in 1968 — their first win over Alabama in more than 55 years. In doing so, he cemented his reputation as the most legendary quarterback in Ole Miss history.

The following year, the first prime-time regular season college football game aired on ABC. The teams on display were, of course, Ole Miss and Alabama. Alabama would go on to win a thrilling 33-32 game in which Archie Manning shined, throwing for 436 yards and two touchdowns and gaining another 104 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Ole Miss won the 1970 matchup in a 28-23 blowout that brought Manning’s career record against Alabama to 2-1, which is still the best winning percentage versus Alabama by an Ole Miss starting quarterback. A few plays here or there and he may have ended up 3-0.

The rivalry between Ole Miss and Alabama goes far beyond just these two programs, however. It’s bigger than the two schools. It’s a full-on, state-on-state competition.

The Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game was introduced in 1988. It features the best football players from each state every year to showcase the talent that Alabama and Mississippi produce on the gridiron. The rivalry between the states is ingrained in the minds of these young men before they even step foot on a college campus.

Often, the players in the All-Star game wind up playing for either Ole Miss or Alabama, and in turn, this intensifies the play on the field. The 2018 Ole Miss roster has 46 players that are either from Mississippi or Alabama, and Alabama has 43 players from the two states. The players know each other. They played with and against each other in high school, which takes this rivalry to a personal level.

Ole Miss has had more success over Alabama in recent years. Since 2000, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama four times, including back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015, which has injected new life into the rivalry.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows he can’t take the Rebels lightly anymore, especially with their high-flying offense. Ole Miss has won two of its last four meetings with Alabama, scoring 43 in back-to-back years during that span. Saban shored up his defensive problems in 2017, but this year’s Rebel offense, led by Jordan Ta’amu and the N.W.O., is like nothing Saban has seen before.

Alabama may hold a significant lead over Ole Miss in the all-time series. Alabama may boast 17 national championships to Ole Miss’ three. Alabama may win again on Saturday. Regardless, this rivalry is alive and well, and it has a promising future going forward.