"Wait till next year."
It's a slogan every sports fan has clung to at some point, whether his or her favorite team is enduring a losing season or finishing as the runner-up.
Unfortunately for several Southeastern Conference football coaches, next year isn't guaranteed when challenging the league's elite teams. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was hoping the fourth time would be the charm Saturday against Alabama, partly because the next go-around in this border series has yet to be announced.
"It's disappointing," Kiffin said in a news conference after the 24-10 loss to the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, "especially when you don't get these guys again for at least a year."
For a second straight season, Ole Miss led Alabama going into the third quarter only to come up short. Saturday marked the 32nd straight year the Rebels and Tide have played as divisional rivals, but the SEC is doing away with divisions after this season and before next year's arrivals of Oklahoma and Texas.
"This was really discouraging," said Kiffin, who was Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama during the 2014-16 seasons. "I really thought this was our shot to beat these guys. I just thought there were some things that we could do, and we didn't get them done."
The next Alabama-Ole Miss pairing will be staged in either 2025 or 2027, barring them meeting in the SEC championship game once the divisions are scrapped. The Rebels' desire to take down the Tide is understandably strong given their 4-28 record as division foes, with two Ole Miss wins coming with Eli Manning at quarterback (2001, 2003) and the other two with Hugh Freeze as coach (2014-15).
Ole Miss losing a 7-6 halftime lead in Bryant-Denny Stadium occurred a week after South Carolina lost a 14-3 lead at the break at Georgia. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs also have played annually since 1992 but are not scheduled to meet in 2024.
Speaking of Freeze, does any SEC team currently have a more struggling quarterback situation than his Auburn Tigers?
Payton Thorne, Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner were a combined 9-of-23 passing for 56 yards in Saturday's 27-10 loss at Texas A&M, and they were sacked a combined seven times. Auburn ranks 84th nationally in total offense with 371.0 yards a game, but against the two Power Five teams the Tigers have faced — California and the Aggies — they averaged a ghastly 215.0 yards.
"Offensively, we're searching, and we've got to find some answers," Freeze said in a news conference following his first loss with Auburn. "I don't want to make assumptions here without watching the film, but we had people open. We either missed them, or the pressure distracted us.
"We weren't efficient at all in throwing the ball to open receivers when we had them."
We may know more in the next couple of days whether Alabama's win over Ole Miss came at a cost.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Deontae Lawson left the game early in the second quarter with an ankle injury. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder from Mobile is second on the team with 26 tackles and also has 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
"He's got a sprained ankle," Saban said. "He's going to be day to day. It's a pretty good one, so nobody knows exactly how long it will take him to respond."
Alabama takes to the road the next two weeks against Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
Perhaps folks will look back at Tennessee's two fourth-quarter touchdowns in Saturday's 45-14 downing of UTSA as simply being cosmetic, or perhaps it will be the first step in showing that Josh Heupel's third year with the Volunteers could indeed be as productive as his second.
"I think we learned a lot about our football team in the second half of last week's game," Heupel said in reference to the 29-16 loss at Florida, where the Vols trailed 26-7 at halftime. "We were resilient, tough and competitive, and they did that today, too. They had a really good week of practice, and you could tell that it hurt.
"This group has been pretty consistent in that, and I expect that again."
South Carolina, which visits Tennessee this Saturday night, survived Mississippi State in Columbia 37-30.
MSU senior quarterback Will Rogers torched the Gamecocks for 487 yards on 30-of-48 passing, with senior receiver Lideatrick Griffin amassing seven catches for 256 yards and a touchdown.
"Seven catches for 256 yards for Griffin? That's embarrassing, frankly," South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said. "That was just some bad pass defense by our guys. We've got a lot to get better at, because we were just getting balls thrown over our heads.
"I'm sure Coach Heupel watched this game on television and is looking forward to next week based on the way we played the deep pass tonight."
Georgia upped its offensive efficiency during a 49-21 lambasting of UAB, reeling off 76 plays for 581 yards and going 10-for-13 on third down and 6-for-6 in the red zone.
After the game, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chip Towers congratulated Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart for winning his 100th game before correcting himself. Smart actually coached his 100th game with Georgia and won for the 85th time.
"I wish it was 100-for-100," Smart said.
Smart's 85% win clip is the best in SEC history for a coach in his first 100 games at one school. Saban won 84 of his first 100 games at Alabama, while Steve Spurrier won 83 at Florida, Phillip Fulmer 83 at Tennessee and Paul "Bear" Bryant 81 at Alabama.
"That's pretty steep company when you start talking about those people," Smart said. "I probably had an easier schedule."
LSU's 34-31 outlasting of Arkansas in Baton Rouge on Saturday night marked the fourth consecutive year in which the Battle for the Golden Boot was decided by three points.
The Tigers have won three of the four.
"It's just the nature of two teams in proximity playing for a rivalry trophy," LSU second-year coach Brian Kelly said. "It was one of those games where we were the last one to have the football, and I wasn't interested in letting Arkansas have another chance."
Razorbacks counterpart Sam Pittman wasn't quite as thrilled, saying, "Isn't that ironic, guys? Another damn three-point loss."
LSU had first-and-goal at the Arkansas 7 with 1:44 remaining and ran the clock down to 11 seconds left before Damian Ramos kicked the 20-yard winner. The Razorbacks had already used up their timeouts.
"Did I think about letting them score? Yes, but I don't think they would have," Pittman said. "We talked about it."
Kentucky has defeated Vanderbilt seven times in the last eight years, winning the past four meetings in Nashville by at least 17 points. ... Florida sophomore kicker Trey Smack went 5-for-5 in field-goal attempts during Saturday night's 22-7 topping of Charlotte in Gainesville, which included a 54-yarder midway through the second quarter.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com.