Lane Kiffin was offensive coordinator the last time Alabama lost in September.
The Crimson Tide fell to Mississippi in the third game of 2015 and didn’t lose again en route to a national championship. Now, Kiffin is on the other side taking the 15th-ranked Rebels to Tuscaloosa to face No. 13 Alabama, which is looking to produce a glimmer of hope that another national title run is still a reasonable goal.
“In my three years there, we lost only one time at home and that was to Ole Miss,” said Kiffin, who was the Tide's OC from 2014-16. “Sometimes that can kind of humble the team, can reset things. You see that often. People have a loss early, people start discounting them and all of the sudden they start playing better and they fix the issues.”
It’s what happened in 2015 after a 43-37 loss to the Rebels. This time, Alabama is outside the AP top 10 for the first time since that loss resulted in a two-week absence.
Then, the Tide also had a lingering quarterback question, but Jake Coker’s off-the-bench performance against the Rebels secured him the job. Now, it’s Jalen Milroe’s turn again after starting the first two games and not plaing at all in the Tide's lackluster showing against South Florida.
That 17-3 win followed a loss to No. 3 Texas at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a double whammy that has Alabama limping into SEC play. Coach Nick Saban still sounds like a strong believer in his players.
“Look, I like the team. I’ve got confidence in our team.,” Saban said. "I really do. We’ve had some tough stretches before and players have bounced back, but I think everybody has got to make a commitment to doing that.
“It’s not easy. We’ve got really tough competition coming up, but everybody has got to challenge themselves, I think, to be their best as a player, be their best as a team guy, be their best as a leader.”
MILROE'S TURN — AGAIN
Milroe is back in the saddle again as Alabama's starting quarterback. Neither Tyler Buchner nor Ty Simpson was as productive in splitting time against South Florida. Milroe is a dangerous runner who has made some big plays downfield, but was picked off twice against Texas.
STIRRING IT UP
Kiffin caused a stir when he suggested Alabama assistant Travaris Robinson was calling plays, not defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Saban said that isn't true. Whether it is true or false, the comments did get the week off to an interesting start. Saban used the opening statement at his news conference to say that Steele is handling “all the defensive coordinator responsibilities.”
Asked about it later in the week, Saban said he's only focused on his team. “I don't really have a reaction to it," he said.
Kiffin has never forgotten that Saban helped resuscitate his career by hiring him at Alabama. He's not shy about singing the Tide coach's praises, including his handling of frequent coordinator switches.
“He's done it better than anybody over time,” Kiffin said. “That speaks to why he's the best coach in the history of college football and maybe all of sports.”
Alabama is facing former defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who left for Ole Miss in January. Golding spent five seasons running Tide defenses. Alabama's goal, according to running back Roydell Williams: “Be ready for anything. He’s a great defensive coordinator. Whatever he throws at us, be ready for it.”
Alabama has won the last seven meetings, outscoring Ole Miss by an average score of 52.8 to 25.3. The Tide has three games with 60-plus points against the Rebels in that span, including a 723-yard, 63-point explosion in 2020.
But last year's 30-24 victory came courtesy of two Will Reichard field goals in the fourth quarter and an Ole Miss incompletion in the end zone in the final minutes.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll