Sports

Lane Kiffin’s loaded Ole Miss offense, led by Matt Corral, is ready for Alabama challenge


The high offense within the FBS, the main Heisman Trophy candidate and a coach combating “rat poison” shall be on one sideline Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

No. 1 Alabama and Nick Saban shall be on the opposite. 

In this case, it is Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin who has the most-productive offense within the FBS. The Rebels common 59.2 factors and 635.3 yards per recreation. Matt Corral is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and that offense is gearing up for a sequel to final yr’s 63-48 shoutout during which the groups mixed for 1,370 yards in an Alabama victory.

MORE: Arch Manning will be on hand for Ole Miss-Alabama showdown

“It’s trademark Lane Kiffin,” ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum informed Sporting News. “It’s innovative. It’s daring. It’s unconventional, but it starts with the quarterback. You can’t do any of this if you don’t have a really great quarterback, and he does. That was one thing that frustrated him at Alabama. He wasn’t quite able to have the cuffs taken off.”

“Trademark Kiffin” has taken on a brand new that means in 2021. It’s not the coach who left Tennessee after one season for USC in 2009. Or the coach who was fired at USC on the tarmac in 2013. Or the offensive coordinator at Alabama who Saban fired in the midst of the College Football Playoffs after he accepted a job at Florida Atlantic in 2016. Kiffin is a classy coach with the new offense that everybody likes to retweet. 

Kiffin is preventing the great battle towards “rat poison” with the most effective weapon attainable. Emojis. 

That’s the Kiffin that generates essentially the most publicity every week, particularly this week with one other matchup towards Saban coming, however that is not the substance Finebaum sees behind the turn-around at Ole Miss. 

“It’s frankly overdone,” Finebaum mentioned. “There’s a stigma about him now that whatever he does or says is funny. He’s really not that funny. He’s better at social media than he is at press conferences.”

MORE: Saban makes not-so-subtle pitch to Arch Manning on MNF

In reality, Kiffin’s press conferences have a well-recognized setup. There’s a Coca-Cola bottle to his proper. 

We all know the place he realized that. 

The previous odd couple

Kiffin was requested Monday what has been the underlying motive for Alabama’s long-term success via the BCS and College Football Playoff eras. He produced a two-word reply:

“Nick Saban,” Kiffin mentioned. “Alabama has been around a long time. They haven’t won like this for a long time. It’s not like it’s just the school. It’s one person. He’s been able to maintain it through tons of different players, tons of different coaches. More coaching turnover than I bet anyone has ever had.”

Saban employed Kiffin after the 2013 season in a transfer that re-defined the Crimson Tide within the CFP period. Alabama had simply misplaced to Auburn within the “Kick Six” recreation and Oklahoma within the Sugar Bowl to finish the 2013 season. Kiffin was a couple of months faraway from being labeled the “Miley Cyrus of college football” by Finebaum after being fired at USC.

The dynamic labored. Saban allowed Kiffin to open up the offense with record-setting outcomes. Amari Cooper was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2014. Derrick Henry gained the Heisman in 2015. Alabama reached the College Football Playoff in three straight seasons and gained the nationwide championship in 2015. Kiffin left Alabama after the CFP semifinal victory towards Washington for FAU in 2016, however each coaches bought what they wanted from that restrictive three-year relationship.

kiffin saban getty 9 28jpg 15khzhlkgd0q61f6ectysral46
Getty Images

“For all of the conversation that Lane Kiffin was saved by Nick Saban and that rehab, it’s also worth pointing out that Lane Kiffin may have saved Nick Saban’s career as well,” Finebaum mentioned. “What Lane did was open the gateway for the quarterbacks that we now know and he was responsible for that. Until then, the quarterbacks had been pretty predictable.”

Bryce Young is in line to be Alabama’s third straight quarterback to be a Heisman Trophy finalist behind Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Ole Miss, nonetheless, may need one too in 2021.

The new odd couple

Kiffin does his finest to displace the Heisman Trophy discuss surrounding Corral, who has 997 passing yards and 14 whole TDs with zero interceptions via three video games. It’s the stat-stuffing line that will get consideration in September.

“For Matt, for this team, none of that means anything,” Kiffin mentioned. “Just like the final ranking — being in the top for some Heisman media talk now means nothing. It only matters if you win the thing. But sure, there is something to that about energy.”

BENDER: Week 5 picks for Alabama-Ole Miss, all Top 25 games

That vitality was evident in Kiffin’s debut at Ole Miss in 2020. No. 5 Florida gained 51-35, however Corral took maintain of the beginning job with 395 passing yards and three TDs. Kiffin and Corral observed the Gators sticking to the identical coverages and formations, so that they adjusted the script.

“We were actually drawing things up on the sidelines,” Kiffin mentioned. “That’s hard to execute when you haven’t been with people and haven’t had reps. His ability to do that and change on the fly was impressive.”

Corral continues to thrive within the offense, too, even when he’s a special sort of persona. Corral is not on social media. When requested in regards to the Heisman Trophy discuss he merely mentioned, “That’s cool right?” 

Corral is that California-cool quarterback. He has 4 TD passes of 40 yards or extra, however that is a product of gaining belief from Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. Corral’s definition of “fun” is completely different. That means displaying up on the crew facility at 5:30 a.m. That means understanding route particulars with receivers to seek out the precise home windows. That means executing that wide-open offense in actual time.

“I feel like that fun thing is just Coach Kiffin and Coach Lebby trusting me to get to the right spot,” Corral mentioned. “We can keep calling the deep shot plays over and over and over, but if I keep forcing it down-field and not getting any yards, we can’t keep running it. As long as I’m hitting my check-down and keep getting to where I’m supposed to go, then they can keep calling those plays.” 

Kiffin is impressed with that growth, too. 

“He continues to get better this year protecting the ball,” Kiffin mentioned. “That’ll be huge again. I think I saw a stat somewhere on TV or something that the only teams have ever beat Alabama (under Saban in the regular season) threw zero interceptions.” (The final crew to throw a choose and beat Alabama throughout the common season was LSU in 2011.)

What’s subsequent?

The alternative is there once more. Saban is 23-0 towards former Alabama assistants. He’s 2-0 towards Kiffin. Alabama beat Tennessee 12-10 on Oct. 24, 2009 when Terrence Cody blocked the go-ahead area aim as time expired. Last yr’s shootout was Albaama’s closest recreation within the common season.

Finebaum remembers joking on “Get Up” that Kiffin could be the primary former assistant to beat Saban, which might not have appeared attainable in 2013. Finebaum mentioned there is a small likelihood in 2021, and that’s as a result of Kiffin is not simply one other Saban disciple.

MORE: Breaking down betting trends for Ole Miss-Alabama showdown

He labored with Saban. He labored below former USC coach Pete Carroll. Kiffin’s father Monte’s profession started in 1966. Lane Kiffin understands that previous guard nicely, and that has created one other dynamic heading into Saturday’s matchup. 

Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 2020

StatAlabamaOle Miss
First downs3731
Passing yards417379
Rushing yards306268
Total yards723647
Points6348

“There are very few coaches that Nick Saban allows himself to think about,” Finebaum mentioned. “I think Lane is in that rarified group. I genuinely believe Lane Kiffin gets in Nick Saban’s head. I don’t mean that it keeps him up at night, but it makes him uncomfortable at times. He knows how undisciplined Lane is, which has to scare you.” 

Kiffin, in the meantime, threw out a couple of jabs. He talked about “free agency” when breaking down  Alabama’s roster. He referenced “rat poison” a couple of instances. He additionally talked about Florida’s recreation plan in a 31-29 nail-biter on Sept. 11.

“It wasn’t a secret formula,” Kiffin mentioned. “They blocked them well at times. They made the safeties miss and had some good schemes. And the quarterback can run himself. That’s usually the formula against anybody, but especially them.”

That’s the components Kiffin may take into Saturday, and some performs will possible get drawn up alongside the way in which.

Are the Rebels ready for this second?

Corral corrected himself after saying they weren’t fearful as a lot about taking part in Alabama this season. Everybody has to fret in regards to the Crimson Tide. For the primary time shortly although, Ole Miss ought to give the Crimson Tide one thing to consider.

There is sufficient “rat poison” to cope with on each sidelines this time. 

“We’re not worried about who we’re playing,” Corral mentioned. “We’re worried about how we handle each practice individually,” Corral mentioned. “Even though they are a great team and they’re the best team we’ll play this year, we’re not worried about them right now.” 

 

 

 

 



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