Cannon's return, 1960s heyday built rivalry

In a league that features rivalries like Auburn-Alabama, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Alabama-Tennessee and Florida-Georgia, Ole Miss-LSU typically flies under the radar.

Go back a few decades in the history books, though, and you'll see that it's more than mutual dislike between two party-hearty fan bases that makes the Magnolia Bowl one of the SEC's top rivalry games.

Here is what helped the series become one of the conference's best:

Billy Cannon and the '60s: The programs had been playing for decades and frequently played close games, but their rivalry truly took off when Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards for the only touchdown in No. 1 LSU's 7-3 win over No. 3 Ole Miss on a misty Halloween night in 1959.

Cannon's return is generally viewed as the most famous play in LSU history, and it likely secured that season's Heisman Trophy and turned Tigers-Rebels into a heated annual showdown that would dominate the next decade.

The teams met up again to end the 1959 season and the outcome was reversed, with No. 2 Ole Miss shutting out No. 3 LSU 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl and earning the national championship from three polling firms afterward.

A nine-game stretch between 1958 and 1965 made Ole Miss-LSU one of the top rivalries of that time period, with Johnny Vaught's Ole Miss claiming three national titles (1959, 1960, 1962) and Paul Dietzel's LSU one (1958). The teams won four games apiece and tied once, and in five of the nine games, both teams were ranked in the top 10.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the craziest games of that era, when LSU won 11-10 in 1964 by electing to go for a two-point conversion after a fourth-quarter touchdown, and quarterback Billy Ezell hitting Doug Moreau with a successful two-point pass.

The Night the Clock Stopped: Although the rivalry faded from the national picture in the 1970s, it was still a big deal in 1972 -- particularly because of what happened in the closing seconds of No. 6 LSU's 17-16 win over unranked Ole Miss.

Ole Miss was 4 seconds away from a 16-10 upset when LSU quarterback Bert Jones took a snap at the Rebels' 10-yard line and threw an incomplete pass to Jimmy LeDoux. Somehow -- and Ole Miss fans still maintain that LSU benefited from some home cooking here -- the clock showed 1 second remaining after the incompletion. On the next play, Jones hit running back Brad Davis with a touchdown pass that helped the Tigers escape with a 17-16 victory.

Disgruntled Rebels fans famously posted a sign afterward at the Louisiana-Mississippi border that read, “You are now entering Louisiana. Set your clocks back four seconds.”

Modern-day history: Probably the main reason that the series isn't frequently recognized among the SEC's best is that it hasn't been as nationally relevant in recent years as it was in its heyday.

Unbeaten Ole Miss enters Saturday's game as the nation's No. 3 team and LSU is No. 24. But only once in the previous 43 years -- in 2003, when they met with an SEC West title at stake -- have both teams been ranked at kickoff. That 2003 game was an instant classic, with No. 3 LSU prevailing 17-14 over No. 15 Ole Miss en route to a BCS championship. The Tigers dodged a bullet in that one, with Rebels kicker Jonathan Nichols missing a 36-yard field goal in the closing minutes and Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning tripping over a teammate's foot to go down on the Rebels' final offensive play.

The reduction in national relevance doesn't mean the series lacked drama, however. In each of the last two meetings, the victor scored the winning points in the final 15 seconds.

Odell Beckham helped LSU tie the 2012 game with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter before Jeremy Hill ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining to earn a 41-35 win. Then last season, LSU stormed back to tie the score at 24 after trailing 17-0, but Rebels kicker Andrew Ritter booted a 41-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to give the Rebels a 27-24 upset victory.

Five times in Les Miles' first nine seasons at LSU, the Magnolia Bowl was decided by seven points or less. Ole Miss enters Tiger Stadium as the favorite, but if this series has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected when the Tigers and Rebels meet.