OXFORD, Miss. — As No. 1 Alabama visits Oxford Saturday night, there's a national buzz around the Rebels' recent history in the series.
Ole Miss did indeed defeat Alabama in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015. The Rebels did in fact lead the Crimson Tide 24-3 in 2016 before mistakes led to a 43-40 loss in Oxford.
However, the most recent body of work shows a 66-3 loss in Tuscaloosa last year.
The message from Ole Miss coach Matt Luke to his players is none of that matters.
The Rebels, receiving votes in the AP Top 25, and Alabama are both 2-0 as they begin SEC play tonight at 6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
"I've given that a lot of thought, but none of those (games) have any bearing," Luke said. "Different players, different teams. We have to focus on this year with the guys we have in our room playing against that team. I don't think any of the previous years matter."
Most of Luke's coaching staff was on the Hugh Freeze staff when the Rebels twice defeated the Crimson Tide. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo and defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff were hired by Freeze after the 2016 season. Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell was hired last July after Luke was promoted to replace Freeze.
Fourth- and fifth-year seniors who signed with Ole Miss out of high school were on the roster when the Rebels won in Tuscaloosa. The list includes a handful of starters including wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge and guard Javon Patterson on offense, safeties Zedrick Woods and C.J. Moore and cornerback Ken Webster on defense.
Good or bad, it's not about the past, players say.
"We're just worried about this game. It's a new team, a new us. We have a new identity. We hold ourselves to a standard each week," Patterson said.
The Rebels' standard includes an explosive offense with 124 points through two games.
They're hoping to find their way to the end zone against the Tide this season. In getting there they'll have to avoid mistakes like turnovers and missed assignments on defense that plagued them as Alabama ran up a 35-3 halftime lead a year ago. The Tide punted on its first possession but scored touchdowns on its next four.
Included in that blitz was a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Levi Wallace, one of two picks in the game for Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, who was sacked five times and pressured many more.
Javon Patterson says if the new Ole Miss team avoids self-inflicted damage it will find success.
"It's just stuff that we do, things like that that can hurt us. They're a great team, but we're in the SEC," he said. "You've got to handle your P's and Q's. You've got to know your assignment and do it well. That comes down to every inch of the football game."
This article is written by Parrish Alford from Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.