Lane Kiffin will be facing off against Nick Saban on Saturday for the first time since Kiffin was the offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016.
Saban quite literally eviscerates his former assistants historically. He's never lost to one.
But Lane Kiffin, in his first year at Ole Miss, will be trying to buck that trend. Here's everything the Rebel coach said on Monday about facing his former boss and Alabama:
Opening statement on Alabama:
"We've got the No. 1 team in the country coming in, in my opinion. The premier program in the country, no offense to Clemson. Those are the two premier programs that are operating on the highest level over the last 10 years, and this one's doing it in the SEC, which is a little bit harder. We'll have our hands full; I think this is probably best team coach has had. As far as being balanced all over and not having holes anywhere. They play a really high level on offense, really good on special teams, great returner. Playing really good defense. So, the last three years, the average score in this match has been something like 62-13, or 14 or something. We got a great challenge on our hands."
On playing Nick Saban:
"I think that's a storyline, but I know everyone downplays those things, but I don't think it's really that big a deal. We worked together for three years, learned a lot from him. Had a great run. I think we won 24 or 26 straight games when I was over there. Very productive times with a lot of great players and a lot of great wins. Only two regular season losses were to Ole Miss. Good time and obviously very grateful to him."
On how Saban's team is different now than earlier in the decade:
"I don't think they're a lot different. I think that change had started, I was thinking playing them at Tennessee versus playing them now, whatever that is 11 years later. They are so much more dynamic on offense, and how they play and they're pushing the ball downfield. We played them, they had Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, great offensive line, McElroy, all that. But it was a different offense. A more, grind it out, slow. People could keep scores closer. Now they just kind of blow everybody out, just a totally different style of offense, whatever that's been the last six years."
On Kiffin and Saban shifting SEC offensive philosophy:
"I don't know. I wouldn't necessarily say that. We weren't necessarily at times, depending on the year. They're more pass-first than ever now, the last two years. Especially last year with Tua. We were balanced, the second year Derrick Henry set the record for most rushes in the history of the SEC, which still stands. I think that they've changed more than we had at that point."
On staying in touch with Saban:
"That's not really his wheelhouse. Not really sending out texts once in a while just checking on you."
On Alabama quarterback Mac Jones:
"We were there when we recruited Mac. I always thought the cool thing about Mac, was everybody said, 'Why would you go there with Tua?' And he didn't care. He was very competitive but really confident in himself. Awesome family. Glad he's doing well. Who would have thought these two quarterbacks are first and second in the country in quarterback efficiency. Happy he's doing well."
On playing against Saban after working with him:
"Well all these people would say that it's an advantage because I worked with him, I don't really understand that. He's 20-0 against coaches that worked for him. If you working for him gives you an advantage, you're not a very good gambler, because 20-0 is a pretty strong record."
On Saban's record against former assistants:
"He knows them too. Everybody says, 'They know him,' well he knows the assistants. I think it goes both ways. Except for Ole Miss those two times and a few Iron Bowls, he's 100 percent against everybody else really until you get to Clemson in the playoffs. He's 100 percent against a lot of coaches and schools."
On slowing down the Alabama offense:
"Every year is new. Every year is different. We've got to play better. We got to limit explosive plays, keep the ball in front of us. Now they have another receiver I've never even heard of that went for 150 that runs by everybody. I thought there were two, now there's three. We got to find a way. No one else has found a way for a while."
On the secondary's matchup versus Alabama:
"You've got to mix things up. We played different coverages. Not just all these guys just have great players, they have great offensive coordinators. This is a different world than 11 years years ago when you used to go play them and you knew they were going to be in the I-formation and be able to keep the game close. They'd pound it out, and now they don't do that at all. This is a lot harder to play, that's why coach changed six or seven years ago. Why he wanted a change because he saw the need to change and to spread things out, become an RPO team, and push the ball downfield more. I was glad he changed at the time. I'm not glad they changed now, I wish they were doing what they used to do."
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