The Third Saturday in October used to be one of the most important Saturday’s of the college football season. Even though, due to scheduling quirks and SEC expansion over the years, the annual game between Alabama and Tennessee isn’t always played on the Third Saturday in October any longer. However, memories of one of the SEC’s and college football’s best rivalry’s will live forever with the older fans of each school. In recent years, the rivalry has taken a drastic turn for the worse. Periods of mediocrity from both schools, most recently from Tennessee, have made this game an afterthought around the rest of the country. Well, the rivalry may have just received a much-needed shot in the arm, at least for the media and Volunteer Nation that is.
After a surprising and much publicized visit to Tuscaloosa a couple of weeks ago, former Tennessee and USC coach Lane Kiffin has been named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Alabama. Taking over the reigns from Doug Nussmeier, who took the same position Thursday at the University of Michigan. As soon as rumors of Nussmeier leaving Alabama for Michigan surfaced, so did rumors of Kiffin taking over the offensive coordinator post for the Crimson Tide. The entire process was pretty much done at the blink of an eye. There had been rumors of teams interested in Nussmeier, who just completed his second season at Alabama, but nothing seemed concrete. Then, came the firing of Michigan offensive coordinator, Al Borges. That opening set up the domino effect that brings Kiffin to T-Town.
Bringing Kiffin in to coach Bama’s offense and quarterbacks is a bit risky for Bama, but maybe more so for Kiffin. Especially, in the short term. Every other season, Bama plays Tennessee in Knoxville, including this season. Let’s just say, there will probably be added security when the Tide visits Neyland Stadium next October. Just in case. Tennessee fans despise their former coach, (with good reason) who will now don the crimson and white colors of their most hated rival. As if Tennessee didn’t hate Bama enough, now this. UT fans aren’t the only ones that despise Kiffin. Fans all across the country have little love for Kiffin, who is also a former head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. His arrogant demeanor is well recognized, even in Alabama. With the state that the Volunteers football program is currently in, there are some Alabama fans that actually loved the job Lane Kiffin did in Knoxville. The Tide has dominated the Vols since Kiffin left for USC. However, I think you would be hard pressed to find many of them that are happy with this move by Nick Saban.
So, why Lane Kiffin and most importantly is this a good move? While, Kiffin brings significant baggage and a great deal of uncertainty, there are several reasons why this is a good move for Alabama. I think first and foremost, is Kiffin’s reputation of being an innovator on offense, and getting the most out of the quarterbacks that he teaches. Nick Saban has certainly noticed. There are reports that Saban offered the offensive coordinator job to Kiffin in 2007. Saban’s first season at Alabama. The two are also said to be friends. Friends or not, Kiffin’s offensive style should fall in line perfectly with how Saban wants to play and attack opposing defenses. So, don’t expect to see a huge difference in Bama’s pro-style attack, even though there have been rumors that Saban might want to mix in some elements of a faster paced offense. Bama should see a smooth transition from Nussmeier to Kiffin, which is a good thing.
The icing on the cake is the fact that Kiffin can recruit with the best of them. Don’t think Saban hasn’t noticed this, either. As dominant as the Tide has been on the recruiting trail during Saban’s tenure, the Tide has yet to land that can’t miss QB that other elite programs like USC seem to land on a regular basis. Kiffin, would provide a big boost in that area. Often times elite QB’s have spurned Alabama, due in most part to it’s run heavy offense. The Tide isn’t going to stop running the ball. It’s what they do, but Kiffin’s style and play calling could open things up more. It’s not like there aren’t enough weapons. A.J. McCarron will be hard to replace, but whomever wins the starting job next fall will have plenty of talent to work with.
After the humbling experience of being fired on the tarmac of LAX, by USC athletic-director, Pat Haden, there should also be a hunger and an attitude we haven’t seen from Lane Kiffin. Not just to win, but to reclaim everything he’s lost over the last several years. Namely, his dignity. It’s unthinkable that Kiffin will be content being a coordinator for an extreme length of time, which could end up being a negative for Bama. He’ll almost certainly want to be a head coach again, somewhere. His upcoming tenure at Alabama should not only be good for the Tide, but should also be good for Kiffin as he looks to resurrect his coaching career. If you’re a lover a college football, more than likely you’re NOT a lover of Alabama football, Nick Saban, or Lane Kiffin. With Alabama’s winning tradition and Saban’s attention to detaiI I have a sneaky feeling the addition of Kiffin may make you hate them as a combination even more.