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No. 10 LSU, Ole Miss meet with so much at stake

JACKSON, Miss. -- Things are looking awfully familiar for No. 10 LSU and Mississippi.

There are two games left in the season and the traditional rivals are again fighting for second place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and the postseason plums that come with it -- just like last year.

The Rebels are on a hot streak, while the Tigers are coming off a surprisingly narrow victory against a nonconference foe and a second straight loss to Alabama in the de facto division title game -- just like last year.

LSU went on to finish a fairly irrelevant 8-5, while Ole Miss went from 0-for-the-SEC in 2007 to Cotton Bowl champions thanks to that win in Baton Rouge.

"It was insane going down to Death Valley where a lot of people go in and don't come out with a W," Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett said. "It was exciting to go down there and hear the crowd rock the stadium and for us to quiet the crowd. That was something amazing. That was an experience."

An experience no one in purple and gold wants to see again. A loss to the Rebels (7-3, 3-3) on Saturday in Oxford would essentially create the same season-ending scenario, and the painful memories have LSU (8-2, 4-2) players ready to write a different ending.

"My brother (Curtis) was a senior last year," safety Brandon Taylor said. "I saw what he went through when we lost to Ole Miss last year. He was real down. That was not LSU football."

The idea that longtime also-ran Ole Miss under second-year coach Houston Nutt might now be good enough to challenge LSU every season is as repellent to players as it is fans.

"Ole Miss is not drawing even with us," Tigers defensive end Pep Levingston said. "The loss last year hurt us."

It also brought into question coach Les Miles' job future by fans who expect more than late-season collapses, single-digit victory totals and second-tier bowl games.

The Tigers have had a better season, though. They started 2009 with five straight wins and their only losses have come to No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Alabama in close contests.

A loss to Ole Miss, though, could wipe all that away.

That's a topic of discussion around Baton Rouge.

"The last two games are our season," linebacker Perry Riley said. "We can either end 10-2 or 8-4. We want to go in the direction of 10-2. It starts with Ole Miss."

The Rebels came out of the LSU game last season as if flung by catapult, creaming Mississippi State, thumping Texas Tech in Dallas and entering the season as everybody's darling. Ole Miss rose to as high as fourth in the poll before falling completely out.

Like 2008, when it finished on a six-win run, Ole Miss has righted itself and won four of its last five. November is Nutt's favorite month and games against LSU are why.

"This is always an exciting time," Nutt said. "We always play them towards the end of November. This place is going to be rocking Saturday, CBS, it doesn't get any better than that. If you can't get excited about this, something is wrong."