The Lane Train came rolling into Oxford last December, but COVID-19 quickly slowed it down. This season has not been an easy one across college football, but it has been especially difficult for the new head coach.
Kiffin is a gambler when it comes to his coaching style. He continues to bet and bet and keeps losing. The SEC is the dealer, standing by and watching him lose over and over again.
It is important to recognize the reality of Kiffin’s and the Rebels’ situation. Kiffin was not going to have a traditional recruiting period as he came into the program only two months before national signing day. Following that, his spring, summer and fall camps were all affected by COVID-19 and the restrictions that resulted from the ongoing pandemic.
To say that Kiffin has had it rough might be a bit of an understatement. However, he did decent work to try and drum up recruits by going to Canada to recruit linebacker Tavius Robinson, who has played in every game this season.
Kiffin also secured Otis Reese, a four-star safety who transferred from Georgia. Unfortunately, the SEC has not granted Reese eligibility, but nevertheless, the recruit was a huge gain for the Rebels.
Kiffin has done a decent job with the cards he has been dealt. Now, onto the negatives.
At the beginning of the season, the Rebels were set to take on five top-25 opponents, and the current 1-4 record lowered expectations.
One of these losses is not on Kiffin. While the SEC made an unfortunate mistake in the Auburn game on Saturday by not closely reviewing a play that would have given Ole Miss an eight-point lead, Kiffin made his fair share of mistakes in that game as well.
For example, the fake field goal that resulted in a loss of four yards and the choice not to go for the touchdown on fourth and five at the 50-yard line in the fourth quarter were uncharacteristic for Kiffin, who is usually overly aggressive.
Kiffin has also made it clear that he does not agree with a lot of what the SEC has done this season.
After the Auburn game, he was fined $25,000 for retweeting a tweet that called the SEC officiating “disgraceful.” He has continued to joke and antagonize the SEC by saying he is going to pay his fine in pennies. Although comical, this joke has probably not helped him make more friends among SEC officials.
While the Rebels should beat Vanderbilt this weekend in Nashville, everyone knows that this will be considered a somewhat successful season if Kiffin can take down the Mississippi State Bulldogs and their new head coach Mike Leach on Nov. 28.
Ole Miss is far out of bowl contention unless the team can somehow win four of the five games it has remaining, one of which is against defending national champions LSU and another against No. 7 Texas A&M.
Realistically, the Rebels are on pace to finish 3-7, but knowing which two games they might win is anyone’s guess.
Kiffin should be preparing for the MSU game heavily — maybe even weeks in advance. Although he has a tough schedule in front of him, the rivalry game matters most to the Ole Miss fan base.