Ed Orgeron is going back to Oxford.
LSU’s head coach is bringing his 24th-ranked Tigers to Vaught Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night to face Ole Miss, which gave Orgeron his first opportunity to be a head coach.
But don’t expect a lot of fanfare — positively or negatively. This isn’t Steve Spurrier taking South Carolina into The Swamp or Nick Saban bringing Alabama into Tiger Stadium. It’s not even Bobby Petrino bringing Louisville to Arkansas, if such a thing were ever to happen.
Orgeron coached the Rebels from 2005-07 and it didn’t work out. Plain and simple. Ole Miss went 10-25 and 3-21 in the SEC under him.
So it’s not like this game is being played in Vaught Orgeron Stadium.
It is Orgeron’s first trip to Oxford since he took over at LSU. He was the interim coach last season, after Les Miles was fired four games into the season, but the Ole Miss game was in Baton Rouge. Orgeron was named full-time head coach before this season.
But obviously, none of the players Orgeron recruited or coached at Ole Miss will suit up on Saturday.
Besides, it’s LSU and Ole Miss for crying out loud. It doesn’t need any subplots.
Sure the Tigers’ most notable game these days is against Alabama for a variety of reasons, but the Rebels still hold a unique place as an LSU rival.
“This game is not about me,” Orgeron said Monday. “I had a tremendous opportunity at Ole Miss. I didn’t get it done, but the past is the past. This is way behind us. Me and my family have moved forward. I’m so happy to be an LSU Tiger. This is another SEC game. It’s LSU-Ole Miss. It means a lot, and it has nothing to do with me. This is about the team.”
Neither of these teams is anything special, though LSU is coming off back-to-back wins against ranked teams (No. 20 Florida, followed by No. 10 Auburn) and Ole Miss had a nice shootout win vs. Vanderbilt last week.
This is just another in an ongoing series of opportunities for Orgeron to show he has developed into a better head coach than he was at Ole Miss.
“It was a stepping stone,” Orgeron said. “It was something I needed, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the mistakes that happened there. Hopefully I don’t make ’em here.”
But critics already have started compiling a list of mistakes after Orgeron’s Tigers were beaten up by Mississippi State in their SEC opener and embarrassed on Sept. 30 in an upset loss to Troy.
Nonetheless Orgeron got the full-time job, in part, because of how well the Tigers played while he was interim coach, just as USC had done under similar circumstances in 2013. LSU is at a high point in what has been an up-and down season. Orgeron’s record post-Ole Miss is 17-6.
“I know I learned my strengths and weaknesses as a head coach,” he said. “I learned how to hire guys that are good at what I’m not good at. We are doing that here. We’ve got some guys that are very strong in a lot of areas that I need and I rely on them. Back then I wouldn’t do that.”
As for Ole Miss, the program has enough problems trying to figure out what to do about the mess High Freeze left it without worrying about the guy who left it with a different mess 10 years earlier.
And Orgeron is where he always hoped to be, grateful to the Rebels for the role they played in helping him get there.
Beyond that, there isn’t going to be a lot of sentimentality this weekend, though Orgeron did reflect on one aspect of his tenure at Ole Miss.
“I used to stop at the Exxon and get a chicken-on-a-stick, and they were fantastic,” he said. “I hope that cook is still there, and I can stop and say hello to her. That’s about all I remember.”