Lane Kiffin is 'The One' Among Saban Assistants

Lane Kiffin is 'The One' Among Saban Assistants

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H2 For You: Lane Kiffin Looks like 'The One' Among Former Saban Assistants

Of all the former assistants to Nick Saban at Alabama who are now head coaches, Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss is the pick to beat him first.

Lane Kiffin will be the first former assistant to Nick Saban to beat the coach of the Crimson Tide, and he'll do it while he's the head coach of Ole Miss.

When, though, is a more difficult proclamation. 

Sure, there are more worthy candidates, at least on paper, as Kirby Smart of Georgia and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M have as equal footing to the caliber of talent Alabama has as nearly any programs in the country. 

Smart's Bulldogs may have the best defense in the country and Fisher may lead the Aggies to its first College Football Playoff appearance this season, and we'll find out the validity of each claim soon enough. 

But neither of them are Lane Kiffin, the well-documented former Alabama offensive coordinator who broke through the thought-to-be impenetrable wall of offensive rigidity and turned the Tide into a different type of threat. 

Kirby Smart would prefer a cage match with his former boss, one similar to Georgia's 10-3 win against Clemson and one that illuminates Alabama's offensive weaponry, and Fisher would prefer it be off a month-long break when Texas A&M can build enough self-belief to pull it off.

And Kiffin couldn't care less what the circumstances are as he'll engineer the Rebels offense to score plenty of points no matter what.

You remember last year, when the Rebels matched Alabama point-for-point in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium until the Crimson Tide, as it did to everyone in 2020, proved to be too much to handle by late in the game. 

Alabama's 63-48 win at Ole Miss was symbolic of a forbidden forecast, one that painted a clear picture of who could be the biggest threat to the crown among those who most helped refine its glisten.

There were talks of everything afterwards, from sign stealing to 'I can't believe they like each other now.' But Kiffin's appreciation for what Saban provided him is what makes his desire to beat him that much greater. 

Eventually, he'll do what Smart can't and what Fisher won't, beat Saban at the game he helped implement by outscoring the talented Tide offense, and by using all the tricks in the book if necessary to keep one step ahead.

And who's to say it isn't in 2021, particularly with Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral leading what looks to be a top-ranked attack after its 43-24 win to Louisville (albeit with Kiffin sidelined with COVID-19), and particularly with Kiffin returning to Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2. 

With Kiffin, it's a capitalized 'T' for Trickery, if that's what it takes to beat his former boss who's unblemished, and 24-0, when it comes to playing once-pupils. 

Last season, his first in Oxford, the Ole Miss coach led the conference in offensive output with 562 yards per game, topping Alabama's mark of 544 yards per game. 

But the Rebels defense was sub-optimal, giving up 536 yards per game, and the touted offensive play caller needed every yard for the team to finish 5-5 last season.

To capture a win over the Crimson Tide, though, he'd need a tight contest throughout, a less-than-spectular showing from Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who's yet to give the indication, and a few other favorable trends in the game like big plays and a turnover advantage.

But I believe he's most capable of any former assistant to Saban, given Ole Miss' offensive potency and given the familiarity of what gives the Alabama coach the worst of headaches on that side of the ball.

And, you know, I believe Crimson Tide fans think of it as second-best to best-case scenario. They'd rather Saban never lose to a former assistant, which isn't impossible, and they'd rather Kiffin be the only one to do it if it must be done. 

I believe it's much better than Georgia or Texas A&M, its most immediate threats outside of Ole Miss, in the eyes of Alabama supporters. 

And who knows, it could be the best job interview available to anyone who's looking to replace the mastery of Saban's run in Tuscaloosa. Let's not forget, either, Kiffin's contributions prolonged the dynasty by switching philosophies mid-gear.

Lane Kiffin will be the first former assistant to Nick Saban to beat the coach of the Crimson Tide, and he'll do it while he's the head coach of Ole Miss.

When, though, is a more difficult proclamation. 

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