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Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin knows how Alabama coach Nick Saban can be after a loss and a near-loss, so he is spending his open week spreading the word to cease the jubilant criticism of the Crimson Tide following a fortunate, 31-29 win at Florida last week.
“I wish the media would stop upsetting Coach Saban, saying that this is a weak team and they’ve got weaknesses,” Kiffin said on the Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday.
Apparently, Kiffin is trying to get everyone behind his No. 13 Rebels (3-0), who next play at No. 1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) on Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. And he will probably get a lot of cooperation as the Crimson Tide has not lost a regular season game since 2019 and is 79-6 since 2015 with three national championships and two national runner-up finishes.
“Great team, great players,” Kiffin said, apparently wielding a butter knife. “I mean, they went on the road against a top 10 team in the Swamp and won with a freshman quarterback. Got an early lead and hung on in the end. And now all of a sudden, it’s not a good team. ‘They’ve got weaknesses and can’t stop people.’ That doesn’t really help us a lot, having been there and knowing how that place works.”
While Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2014-16, the Tide lost two regular season games – 23-17 at Ole Miss in ’14 and 43-37 at home to Ole Miss in ’15. Alabama won eight straight after the first one and 12 after the second one, including the national title game.
“I feel like the media has done this 100 times. ‘Alabama’s over. The dynasty is over. They lost too many coaches. They lost too many players,'” said Kiffin, who is in his second year at Ole Miss. “I think he does a phenomenal job after losses. He just handles them really well, doesn’t start changing things just because the media acts like he should. He rallies the troops. I’ve seen losses really help them.”
Close wins can do the same thing. After a lackluster 14-13 win at Arkansas in 2014, the Tide beat No. 21 Texas A&M, 59-0. After a 20-13 win in overtime at No. 14 LSU in 2014, Alabama beat No. 1 Mississippi State, 25-20. After a 26-14 loss as the No. 1 team to No. 6 Auburn in 2017, the Tide beat No. 1 Clemson in the national semfinal to reach the national championship game, where it beat Georgia.
Saban will have to regroup his defense, which allowed 439 yards to Florida. Ole Miss leads the nation in total offense with 635.3 yards a game. Alabama is No. 40 in the nation and No. 9 in the SEC in total defense with 307 yards given up a game.
1. Alabama (3-0. 1-0 SEC). 2. Florida (2-1, 0-1). 3. Georgia (3-0, 1-0). 4. Ole Miss (3-0). 5. Texas A&M (3-0). 6. Arkansas (3-0). 7. Auburn (2-1). 8. Kentucky (3-0, 1-0). 9. LSU (2-1). 10. Mississippi State (2-1). 11. Tennessee (2-1). 12. South Carolina (2-1, 0-1). 13. Missouri (2-1, 0-1) 14. Vanderbilt (1-2).
SATURDAY’S GAMES: (All times central, FanDuel point spread)
LSU (2.5-point favorite) at Mississippi State, 11 a.m., ESPN.
Missouri (1.5-point favorite) at Boston College (3-0), 11 a.m., ESPN2.
No. 2 Georgia (34.5-point favorite) at Vanderbilt, 11 a.m., SEC Network.
No. 7 Texas A&M (5.5-point favorite) vs. No. 16 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, 2:30 p.m., CBS.
Georgia State (2-2) at No. 23 Auburn (26.5-point favorite), 3 p.m., SEC Network.
Tennessee at No. 11 Florida (18.5-point favorite), 6 p.m., ESPN.
Kentucky (4.5-point favorite) at South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN2.
Southern Mississippi at No. 1 Alabama (45.5-point favorite), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network.
OPEN: Ole Miss.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think one day, someone is going to figure out how to eliminate social media from their team, and they’re going to have a remarkably good team. Everybody’s going to be amazed and wonder how it happened.”
-Mississippi State coach Mike Leach
STAT OF THE WEEK: Texas A&M leads the nation in scoring defense (5.7 points a game), fewest passing yards allowed (77.3 a game) and in pass efficiency defense (62.16 rating).