• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Analysis: Lane Kiffin should climb list of LSU football coach candidates after Ole Miss rolls

·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

OXFORD, Miss. – LSU athletics director Scott Woodward should have a couple rules for his football coaching search.

If you lose to Illinois at home, you’re out.

If you lose to LSU’s lame-duck coach Ed Orgeron, you’re out.

Applying those standards, Woodward can shred James Franklin’s résumé after Penn State lost 20-18 to Illinois in nine overtimes on Saturday.

But he can keep Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin’s name on the list of potential candidates – heck, slide it up – after Kiffin’s 12th-ranked Rebels thumped LSU 31-17 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The Rebels (6-1, 3-1 SEC) are ascending rapidly under their second-year coach. They’re one victory from securing their first winning season since 2015. Dating to last season, Ole Miss is 10-2 in its last dozen games.

Combine that success with the fact that Ole Miss is not among the SEC’s best jobs (or top-paying jobs), and it’s no surprise that many view Kiffin as a potential candidate for LSU (4-4, 2-3) after Woodward announced last Sunday that Orgeron will not be retained after this season.

Kiffin is quieting any doubters who questioned whether he deserved a second chance as an SEC coach after he jilted Tennessee for Southern Cal in January 2010 following his lone season in Knoxville.

OLE MISS BEATS LSU: No. 12 Ole Miss football runs hard, cruises to 31-17 win over LSU, earns bowl eligibility

Kiffin revolutionized Alabama’s offense in three seasons as a coordinator under Nick Saban. Sure, you might say, but a lot of coordinators look smart with Alabama’s talent.

Kiffin then went 26-13 in three seasons at Florida Atlantic. OK, but what does Conference USA success have to do with the SEC?

But you cannot apply any asterisk to downplay Kiffin's achievements at Ole Miss.

There’s reason for Woodward to have pause on Kiffin, but none of that was displayed Saturday.

Instead, you saw why Kiffin is regarded as a brilliant offensive mind who develops quality quarterbacks. The Rebels’ tempo and spacing gives opposing defenses fits. Even the Ole Miss defense, which ranked last in the SEC in 2020, found a pulse against an LSU offense that shredded Florida a week ago.

Orgeron labeled Kiffin one of the three best play callers in college football. Ole Miss’ first touchdown drive, in particular, gave credence to that.

The Rebels opened that drive with some razzle-dazzle – a wide receiver reverse pass to quarterback Matt Corral. Dontario Drummond connected with Corral for a 19-yard gain.

It capped the drive with a show of old-school football. Corral went under center, executed a play-action fake and tossed a 2-yard touchdown to Casey Kelly, who had lined up as a fullback. Who’s throwing touchdown passes to fullbacks these days?

Corral was short two of his top targets, with wide receivers Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo sidelined by injuries, and he got off to a pedestrian start. But his final stat line will keep him positioned as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner: 18-of-23 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown, with another TD coming on the ground.

LSU is one of the nation’s best jobs, and Woodward has a reputation for spending big and chasing top names. Combine those factors, and few names should be considered off limits.

Woodward, while Texas A&M's AD, used a 10-year, $75 million contract to hire Jimbo Fisher from Florida State. Before that, Woodward hired Chris Petersen at Washington after Petersen had fashioned Boise State into America’s favorite underdog. Woodward already made a splash at LSU by plundering Kim Mulkey, one of the nation’s top women’s basketball coaches, from Baylor.

Kiffin has matured throughout his career, but has he matured to the point of being able to handle one of college football’s highest-pressure and most scrutinized jobs at LSU?

Kiffin fits Woodward’s liking for a household name, but he’s not built from the mold of Petersen or Fisher. Kiffin is an attention magnet. He’s never far from drama. He’s a Twitter comedian. He's among college football's most polarizing figures.

Kiffin played the part of wrestling heel last week. Tennessee fans threw debris and yelled obscenities at their former coach as he exited the field following a 31-26 victory. Kiffin signaled No. 1 with his index finger as Vols fans held up middle fingers, and he nearly caught a water bottle that was thrown at him before joking about the incident on Twitter. Kiffin is good theater, but is it the theater Woodward wants after parting with a coach who was rough around the edges?

After seeing Kiffin’s Rebels shred the Tigers, it must be tempting, at least.

Kiffin had a wardrobe change during the game. He coached the first half in a white hooded sweatshirt before shedding it in favor of a blue long-sleeve shirt after halftime. I wouldn’t fault Woodward if he wondered at some point Saturday how Kiffin might look in purple.

Follow Blake Toppmeyer on Twitter @btoppmeyer

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Lane Kiffin should rise on LSU football coach list after Ole Miss win

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting