If the Ole Miss Rebels turn in a less-than-inspired performance Saturday in the Outback Bowl against Indiana (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC), it won't be due to an unmotivated Lane Kiffin. The Ole Miss head coach is returning to a place that holds special meaning for the entire Kiffin family, a place where he watched his father, Monte, serve as Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator.
"Lane is excited," Monte Kiffin told the Clarion Ledger. "There were a couple bowls we could've gone to, smaller bowls. But when we got the chance to go to the Outback Bowl, that really meant a lot to him and his staff. All the players know it. This is a big time bowl. It really is. There's no doubt about it."
Monte's now 80, and he has spent so many years in Tampa that he's close to people who run the Outback Bowl. That's not lost on his son. This is Kiffin's chance to show on a national stage that he has the Rebels on the rebound and ready to take a step in 2021.
"Great opportunity for us. As we know, first time in five years. Top 10-11 opponent. As we've talked about, we're shorthanded, especially offensively. It is what it is," Lane said this week. "You saw some guys last night in bowl games step up when their chances came. Hopefully we'll have some guys step up."
Besides the family ties, Lane knows that this is a huge opportunity for the program to play in front of Florida recruits on the final Saturday of the college season.
"We've always had success with Florida kids, going all the way back to USC with—speaking of Tampa—Mike Williams. He's actually coming by practice Friday," Kiffin said. "There's always great players in Florida. I think there's something to Florida kids with how they work, for the most part. We've got a couple last year that are doing really well here for us already. Especially Harlem, our running back, who had a big game last week as a true freshman at LSU."
Now it's time to see if Kiffin's players are as motivated as he is this week.