After five straight games against ranked opponents, LSU’s rivalry game against Ole Miss doesn’t hold the national appeal of the Tigers’ dramatic past month.

But don’t expect the Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) to play like an outmanned foe, as Ole Miss has kept the series competitive despite making only two bowl games since 2004.

Ole Miss has made records moot when the Tigers are on the opposite sideline.

“They always play big,” said senior offensive tackle Josh Dworaczyk. “We play them later in the season, and there’s a lot on the line for us. To upset LSU would make their season.”

Outside of last season’s 52-3 LSU rout in Oxford, the Rebels have often thrown a wrench into the Tigers’ November.

In 2006, a three-win Ole Miss team marched into Tiger Stadium and took a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

Former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell rallied LSU with two late touchdowns, including a last gasp 4th-and-goal toss to Dwayne Bowe that forced overtime, when the Tigers finally outlasted the 27-point underdogs, 23-20.

Ole Miss won consecutive games against LSU in 2008 and 2009, as the Rebels made the Cotton Bowl twice and either matched or surpassed LSU’s win total in both years.

The 2010 matchup was one of the rivalry’s most compelling, as the teams traded the lead six times in the second half. Stevan Ridley’s last-minute touchdown run completed a 20-point LSU barrage in the fourth quarter to defeat the four-win Rebels, 43-36.

LSU junior defensive end Sam Montgomery said he expects a game no less competitive than those thrillers.

“With these old rivalries, it transcends football,” he said. “As players, no matter the score, you keep that tradition alive. You feel it in your blood on the field against Ole Miss.”

Though the Rebels have been down during the last eight years, talent isn’t necessarily absent.

Former coaches Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt regularly compiled respected recruiting classes, and LSU senior wideout Russell Shepard said it shows.

“Looking at the film messes you up, because you don’t see talent quite like an Alabama or a Florida,” Shepard said. “But when they play LSU, they play like an Alabama or Florida. You have to understand and expect that.”

Dworaczyk’s first game in attendance at Tiger Stadium was that 2006 overtime thriller, and the sixth-year senior is just 1-2 against Ole Miss in games he’s played.

He said the timing and location of the game requires a tougher mental task for LSU.

“It’s always Senior Night for us, which means the emotion is flowing,” Dworaczyk said. “It seems they play us a lot harder in Baton Rouge. History mandates that.”

The Rebels may have a different motivation this year, though.

Under new coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss enters the game one win away from a bowl berth after dropping heartbreakers to Texas A&M and Vanderbilt in recent weeks.

Instead of simply playing spoiler or jockeying for bowl position, Dworaczyk said, the Rebels will be looking to earn a signature win for the Freeze era.

“They’re trying to build and make a program,” he said. “Ole Miss has played a lot of close games this year with a lot of emotion and come out on the short end. With a bowl game on the line, that makes this their championship.”

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