Nov. 24, 2008

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - It just keeps getting better for Mississippi and Houston Nutt.

The Rebels seem to reach new milestones every week under their new coach. This week? A satisfying upset of rival LSU and a spot in the Top 25 for the first time since the final poll of the 2003 season.

No. 25 feels pretty good to senior receiver Mike Wallace, who suffered through three three-win seasons before Nutt's arrival.

"I'm loving it. It feels great," Wallace said. "It's been a long time coming and there's been a lot of folks working really hard for this. I feel like we deserve it."

Especially after upsetting then-No. 18 LSU. The Rebels (7-4) now have the advantage over the Tigers for a Cotton Bowl berth. Finish the season with a win over rival Mississippi State on Friday and the Rebels will be a very attractive postseason draw.

To Nutt, who left Arkansas and took over at Ole Miss for fired coach Ed Orgeron last November, the ranking is a public relations coup as well as a reward for the players' and coaches' hard work.

"It helps everything," Nutt said. "Your name is mentioned, and to me, that's a direct tie to recruiting. It's only going to help you, but you want to stay there, though."

The Rebels are playing like ranked teams should.

They won their fourth straight by knocking the opposing quarterback out of the game, holding the high-powered LSU rushing game to 39 yards and were dominant in all three phases of the game. The win snapped a six-game losing streak to Ole Miss' No. 2 rival, and the voters rewarded them while pushing LSU out of the poll.

The Rebels' last appearance in the poll came after Eli Manning led the SEC West champions to a 31-28 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl and a 10-3 record. They finished 13th that year, but suffered through four losing seasons before Nutt took over.

Quarterback Jevan Snead, who threw two touchdown passes against the Tigers, tried to temper the excitement of the ranking. After all, there's a short week ahead for the team before taking on the physical Bulldogs, who beat Arkansas 31-28 Saturday.

"It's what we've been working for all year," Snead said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves. We have a really big game this weekend and that's what we have to focus on."