Alabama Football: The complicated history between Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football will host Ole Miss this week in what feels like a must-win game if the Crimson Tide is eventually going to become a title contender in 2023.

Ole Miss head coach (and former Alabama assistant) Lane Kiffin is known almost as much for his off-field and social media antics as he is for the potent offenses he consistently puts on the field. He has continued throughout this week to try to stir up drama within the Alabama Football program and fanbase, though he has done so with a lighthearted and joking tone.

Kiffin first crossed paths with Coach Nick Saban in a 2009 classic between Alabama and Tennessee, where he was in his first and only season as the Vols’ head coach. In what was a bizarre game throughout, a Terrence Cody blocked field goal at the horn allowed the Crimson Tide to survive at home by a score of 12-10. It would prove to be Alabama’s closest call in an eventual 14-0 national championship season.

Alabama Football: Kiffin comes to Tuscaloosa

Saban and Kiffin would join forces when the former hired the latter as the offensive coordinator for Alabama Football prior to the 2014 season. Kiffin would serve as the Alabama OC for three years. The young and brash offensive guru clashed frequently with Saban, but regularly put a quality offensive product on the field.

Alabama went 40-4 in his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, with three playoff appearances and a national championship in 2015. However, Kiffin was dismissed prior to the 2016 national title game after taking the head coach position at FAU, and his time at Alabama ultimately ended on a sour note.

Alabama Football: Another student turned rival

When Lane Kiffin eventually landed the head coaching gig at Ole Miss in 2020, he was suddenly back in the SEC West, where he would be tasked with facing Saban every year. Since then, the drama between the master and the understudy has only heightened. The two have now faced off three times with Coach Saban taking all three victories, but the series has not lacked excitement.

In 2020, Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels welcomed Bama into Oxford and made a mockery of Pete Golding’s defense. The Tide would win the game and go on to enjoy a 13-0 national championship season, but the Ole Miss game was an embarrassment to an Alabama Football program that has historically prided itself on defense. For the game, Kiffin’s offense posted an absurd 647 yards, including 379 passing yards and 268 more on the ground in the 63-48 loss.

This debacle led to a highly anticipated 2021 matchup between the two teams. Kiffin played into the drama leading up to the game, but his team did not show up. In a vintage dominant performance by Coach Saban and company, Alabama quickly rolled up a 35-0 lead and eventually won the game 42-21.

The 2022 bout between Alabama and Ole Miss had a slightly different feel. The two met in a rare late season matchup, and the Rebels hoped to capitalize on a wounded Bama team that had already lost two SEC games. In a game that was tight throughout, the Bryce Young-led Crimson Tide survived a 30-24 decision on the strength of a late defensive stand.

In 2023, Alabama Football is once again heading into this game with its back against the wall. Will the team respond with Jalen Milroe back under center? Will it finally put together a complete performance?

Next. Keys to a Bama victory. dark

Hopefully, the time Kiffin has put into trolling Bama fans this week has taken something away from his game preparation, but the general consensus is that this will be another barnburner in Bryant-Denny.