Want some insane statistics about the Nick Saban and his coaching tree?
We know his record against assistants is peerless — he’s now 21-0 against his former pupils. And, yes, we know he tends to grind them into powder: the average score of those 23 contests now stands at 41-14.
A truly unreal statistic is that in the SEC, presently five of the conference’s current head coaches were once Saban assistants and coordinators: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and now Ole Miss.
But perhaps the most bizarre stat is that tonight was the second overall of three straight meetings in one season between Saban and one of his proteges. By year’s end, he will have faced four former assistants in the same season. All of these things have to be a record.
And on this October afternoon, it was Lane Kiffin’s turn to test the bull and get the horns, as ‘Bama traveled to Oxford where The Man met the Manchild. Lane Kiffin: a coach who had seemingly failed upwards in life until his humiliating fall. He was a coach that had to be rebuilt from the ground-up, one that had to swallow his considerable pride and become a better man, a better coach, and a better representative of his program.
Of the many Nick Saban reclamation projects, Lane Kiffin is the most successful one to-date (though, Steve Sarkisian is almost certainly going to be numbered among that group soon). He is also a coach that many have a special fondness for. His arrival coincided with an offensive shift, and with it came a somewhat different — dare I say, a more fun? — Nick Saban. The two men learned from one another.
Yet, as Kiffin discovered today, the master never fully teaches the students all his tricks.
But only barely.
We were treated to the single worst defensive game of the Nick Saban era...truly. Surely, there will be more to say about that later. But we also were treated to the two best offensive minds in the game trading blows. It was masterful, if you love scoring; stressful as hell if you wanted a second of comfort; and just plain remote-throwing, rage-inducing if you like defense.
Alabama had over 700 yards of offense, becoming the first team since Oklahoma in 2016 to have 400+ passing and 300+ rushing. Ole Miss did their own share of damage too — 647 yards, 268 of them on the ground as the Rebels continually won battles up front against a disappointing ‘Bama front.
The Initial Impressions will be wild, but for now enjoy the feeling of mere survival. There is not be another offense quite this good on the regular season schedule; and none against a man who knows this team and scheme quite so intimately.
And Lane Kiffin, take a bow. You and your Rebs earned it, even if the better team won this evening. For Alabama, there will be some soul-searching to be had as its eyes turn towards a Top-5 meeting against the Bulldogs.