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Ole Miss Rebels’ Lane Kiffin Discusses Relationship With Georgia Bulldogs Coach Kirby Smart

Lane Kiffin considers Kirby Smart a close friend in the industry after their time under Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.

Lane Kiffin might consider Nick Saban the ultimate mentor, but he's trusted the advice of Kirby Smart in trialing times. 

Kiffin, who leads No. 9 Ole Miss into Athens for a top-10 showdown against No. 2 Georgia, has fond memories of working alongside Smart during their tenure in Tuscaloosa. Smart, who took over for Mark Richt in 2016 and has since led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles, was Saban's defensive coordinator for eight seasons. 

Kiffin, who's closing in on his fourth year in Oxford, spent two seasons on staff with Smart under Saban in 2014-15 as Alabama's offensive coordinator. 

"Kirby's really smart," Kiffin told reporters on the SEC teleconference call Wednesday. "And I really enjoy talking to smart, intelligent coaches that you can bounce things off of, or ask them how they do things, or how they deal with a player issue or injury or something. He's one of the first calls a lot of times if I'm looking for advice."

Ole Miss Rebels watch Randy Bond's 47-yard field goal attempt fall short at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. 

Ole Miss Rebels watch Randy Bond's 47-yard field goal attempt fall short at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. 

The relationship hasn't blossomed into a rivalry. At least not yet. Since Kiffin took over for Matt Luke in 2020, the Rebels have yet to face the Bulldogs at either Samford Stadium or Vaught-Hemingway. 

Smart's only faced Ole Miss once since his departure from Alabama, dating back in 2016. The Rebels picked up the 45-14 win in Oxford en route to a 5-7 finish. Georgia, meanwhile, finished with fewer than 10 wins for the first time since 2013. 

The two Saban disciples have changed the persona of their programs for the better during their respective tenures. Georgia has finished with at least 10 wins each year since 2017. The Rebels, meanwhile, have a chance to finish with double-digit regular season victories for the second time in program history. 

Kiffin knows the Bulldogs are the heavy favorites heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff, but instead of buying into the "underdog" mantra, he plans on letting the on-field play do most of the talking.

"Kind of feel like nobody gives us a shot," Kiffin said. "What do got to lose when no one expects you to win?"