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Ole Miss fan Shepard Smith ranks LSU rivalry *way* ahead of Egg Bowl

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The lifelong Rebels fan and Fox News anchor talked about the upcoming Alabama-Ole Miss headliner, the evolution of Oxford, and the SEC West.

Fox News

This interview with the host of "Shepard Smith Reporting" was edited for length.

Jason Kirk: So you're in Oxford this week, right?

Shepard Smith: I am. When this schedule game out, I scheduled the week as the time, if ever there was a time, to be in Oxford all week, so I'm here.

JK: Nice. And you're able to broadcast from there?

SS: I have a condominium here, and I have a studio inside my condo that's all set up for me. So I can just sit down and have my computer, and everything's all set. It's great.

JK: I would imagine that, right now, Oxford is as turned up as it could possibly get, with everything on the line this Saturday.

SS: Epic. You know, we're very good at hosting. We're probably better known for our hosting than we are, at least in recent decades, for our football. But we're gonna put the two together this time.

There's never been -- I can't think of a more important week in my 50 years in this town. And we've never had the kind of demand that we have. You know, double the stadium size will be in town this weekend. Most people won't get inside. With "GameDay" here, and with CBS here with the game of the week and so many celebrities, it's insanity.

And it's good for Oxford. I think, finally we're ready for this. A lot of times, when we've gotten to the big moment -- the [2003] LSU game under Eli [Manning] on campus comes to mind, and the [2009] South Carolina game when we were No. 4 -- we hit those big moments, and they were too big for us. I think we're past that. I think we're ready.

JK: Faith in Hugh Freeze?

SS: Oh my god, I love Hugh Freeze and Ross Bjork and the athletic department. I don't know if we ever made the full commitment to be an SEC team, but we have now. We're new to the party of going all in, but we're in now.

This place is running so smoothly and construction is exploding all over the campus, and they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars. You know, the middle of the pack is not what we want, and middle of the pack is not what we deserve. We're about to get there, and hopefully this weekend will be the start.

JK: Since you're an Oxford expert, I wanted to get your thoughts on those Bama fans coming in town, the places they should be sure to hit. Say they get in Friday afternoon, where would you send them?

SS: Because of the fact that I'm a news guy, I hesitate to endorse places, for fear that tomorrow they might've embezzled someone and I'll have to be covering it.

But in general, Oxford is an easy thing. Friday is an easy thing. You can go see Rowan Oak, where William Faulkner lived. He donated it to the campus. His grave site's just right off the Square.

You have to hit the Square. Everything you want to eat and drink, the best small-town book store in America is there, live music at a number of different places, there's outdoor seating at most of them, either on balconies or in the backyards.

Fans that haven't been to Oxford in recent years will be really surprised. There's a reason this town is voted one of the best small towns in America, and there's obviously a reason that we have the No. 1 tailgate scene in the country. Everybody tailgates, but they only Grove in one place. And The Grove is just gonna be completely packed with people, so an early trip to The Grove is nice.

Tell you, I've always kinda liked Alabama fans. I spend all my time hating LSU, so the Alabama fans have never really bothered me. They travel well, they spend a lot of money when they come to town, they're generally respectful when they come here, and I think they'll find that if they walk around The Grove, just about everybody under every tent'll offer them something to drink and a little lunch. To soak in the hospitality here is amazing to do.

And then at night, all you have to do is ride around with the windows down, and there are limitless opportunities for revelry, especially after a win. Hopefully the Alabama people will be leaving town about 6 o'clock Saturday afternoon and heading back to Tuscaloosa.

JK: Without anything to celebrate.

SS: Hopefully not.

JK: You mentioned LSU fans, and that's kind of an underrated rivalry. What is it about LSU that --

SS: It's not underrated for me. That game's decided, I think, three national championships. We've traditionally played LSU on Halloween weekend, home-and-away, for years and years. Anybody who's ever been there'll tell you what an 8 o'clock game in Death Valley is like. Add Halloween, and stir. When I was a kid, a college student, you could get batteries thrown on you from up there.

I remember one year we actually went up there and beat them. Windows smashed on the way outta there. LSU folks are passionate, and I don't like 'em. Part of being a college football fan is loving your team and hating your worst rival. I reserve hate -- that word, it's a really strong word, and I don't think you need to use it haphazardly -- and I hate LSU. I hate their colors, I hate their attitude, I hate the way they play, I hate 'em. And anybody that has a problem with that doesn't understand college football rivalries. I want LSU to hate us just as much.

I look forward to having them on campus. We got what we wanted out of them last year, and hopefully we will again.

JK: How does that emotion compare to Mississippi State?

SS: Nothing. No comparison. The thing with Mississippi State is, you know -- the last thing I want is a story in their locker room later on -- but to me, they didn't ever really much matter. We pretty much just beat 'em all the time when I was around here.

You know, they're just Mississippi State. That's all. They ring cowbells and study cheese. I wish them all the best. They're Mississippians and stuff. But the ones who don't wanna get beat come to Ole Miss.

JK: It's a pretty big game to them, though, the Egg Bowl.

SS: Ohh, it's the biggest game in the world to them. It always has been. Absolutely, it's a huge game. I'm looking forward to this Alabama game, LSU's a big game ... you know, Mississippi State, it's over Thanksgiving weekend. I'll feast with my father. I don't go down there any more. It's an in-state rival. Find the Auburn fan who has a nice thing to say about Alabama. In this case, I just don't much care about Mississippi State.

We're not really competing with them for recruits. I think we've found a new place. I hope things go great down there in, whatever it is, Scott Field.

JK: Now when you went to Ole Miss, that was the Steve Sloan and Billy Brewer era.

SS: Yep, I was here '83 to '87. And, you know, just kinda muddling along, as we put it. Back then, we still drove our trucks into The Grove. It wasn't the tent scene that you see now. We would just drive our cars into that thing, open the trunk up, and crack back a Natty Light or something.

JK: So you weren't doing chandeliers back then.

SS: No, there were no chandeliers. There was no raw bar set out. Rarely would we have people serving us. And certainly there was no live music. It wasn't like it is now. We only had 9,000 undergraduate students at the time, and sometimes we'd have 25 or 30 thousand people at the game. Half of them would be gone by halftime, 'cause you gotta get back to The Grove. Thankfully, all that's changed, but it was a great experience. When I was in school, I only remember three bars and three restaurants, and that was it. People didn't much like coming to Oxford.

JK: You might've seen Cody Prewitt's comments, which weren't that incendiary, indicating Alabama's slipped a little bit. You think that's accurate?

SS: You know, the Cody remarks aside, your power ratings show that Alabama's numbers are down a little bit, but Alabama's 4-0. What I can do is look back over the last 10 years and see no victories for Ole Miss [vs. Alabama]. Over the entirety of the history of the university, I find nine. My hope is not for a changing of the guard, but the addition of a program to the top of the SEC West.

And I think what we have to do is contain the run, establish a little bit of a running game, and we have to have the good Bo. The good Bo Wallace has to be there. And if that happens, we've got a good chance in a shootout. I think SB Nation gives us a 59.8 percent chance of winning [exactly right!]. That sounds about right to me.

That said, I do have a history book, and I don't miss football games, so I know this is Alabama. The hill is tall for any program in the nation, ours included. I'm very hopeful.