“Get your popcorn ready.” These words were Lane Kiffin’s famous “last words,” to CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl two years ago. This quote encapsulates the Alabama vs. Ole Miss rivalry since Kiffin’s arrival in Oxford in December 2019. In 2020, their first encounter resulted in nearly 1,400 total yards, Ole Miss going four-for-four on fourth downs, and Alabama defeating the Rebels 63-48. Last year, they delivered an epic showdown with Bryce Young leading a comeback to secure a 30-24 victory for the Tide. Surprisingly, the 2021 game could have been more exciting. While we got our famous quote, Alabama dominated with a 28-0 halftime lead and an easy win. Ole Miss vs. Alabama headlines Saturday afternoon and week four SEC Action. Before delving into the week four SEC preview, let’s assess the opportunity for Lane Kiffin and the Rebels.
Talking the Talk, but Can He Walk the Walk?
Kiffin is an SEC icon. His quotes and quips remind many of Steve Spurrier. While Kiffin’s Rebels may not win as much or as big as Spurrier’s Gators, Kiffin speaks his mind. He is never one to hold his tongue, even if it is at the expense of his old boss, Nick Saban. On Sunday, Kiffin suggested that Alabama’s defense looks like a Travaris Robinson defense, not a Kevin Steele defense. Robinson is Alabama’s secondary coach, and Steele is the defensive coordinator. The comment caused such a stir that Saban had to reiterate in his press conference this week that Steele calls Alabama’s defense. The fact Saban responded shows that folks listen when Kiffin speaks.
Many critics claim Kiffin is all talk and no walk. He is 0-4 against the Top 10 and 3-5 against the Top 25 competition. Kiffin is playing with a thinner hand than most of his SEC counterparts and lacks the recruiting advantages and budgets of those in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, or College Station. Rather than building through high school recruiting, Kiffin has become the SEC portal king, using the Transfer Portal to build and shape his roster. He is a quarterback whisperer, with three of his quarterbacks all coming to Oxford via the portal. Jaxson Dart emerged from the quarterback competition this season with his arm and legs this year. Last week against Georgia Tech Dart ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
The game on Saturday represents an opportunity for Kiffin and the Rebels to make a statement. Alabama is in a weakened state and the SEC West is up for grabs. This isn’t rat poison, but an opportunity for Kiffin to once again silence his critics. So, grab your popcorn and enjoy the game.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 19, 2023
Week 4 SEC Slate
All times are EST. The visiting team is listed first. Lines are current as of the time of publishing. Week three picks against the spread are in bold.
|🗓️ Date||⏰ Time||Matchup||💰 Line||💵 O/U|
|9/23||Noon||🐯 Auburn 🆚 🐶 Texas A&M||TA&M -7.5||52.5|
|9/23||Noon||🐱 Kentucky 🆚 ⚓️ Vanderbilt||UK -14||50.5|
|9/23||3:30 p.m.||🦈 No. 15 Ole Miss 🆚 🐘 No. 13 Alabama||ALA -7||55.5|
|9/23||4:00 p.m.||🐦 UTSA 🆚 🍊 No. 23 Tennessee||TENN -20.5||59|
|9/23||7:00 p.m.||🐗 Arkansas 🆚 🐯 No. 12 LSU||LSU -17.5||56|
|9/23||7:00 p.m.||⛏️ Charlotte 🆚 🐊 Florida||FLA -28||49.5|
|9/23||7:30 p.m.||🐉 UAB 🆚 🐶 No. 1 Georgia||UGA -42||54|
|9/23||7:30 p.m.||🐯 Memphis 🆚 🐯 Missouri||Miz -5.5||51.5|
|9/23||7:30 p.m.||🐶 Mississippi State 🆚 🐓 South Carolina||SC -6.5||
SEC Week 4 Preview
SEC Preview #1: 🐯 Auburn 🆚 🐶 Texas A&M
Week four kicks off with more questions than answers in College Station. Both teams handled lesser competition but struggled against Power 5 teams. Auburn narrowly California two weeks ago in Berkley, while the Aggies fell to Miami in Coral Gables. Texas A&M seems to benefiting from Bobby Petrino’s influence (collaboration?) on its offense in 2023. The Aggies are averaging 44 points a game and quarterback Connor Weigman has thrown for over 900 yards and eight touchdowns through three games. The defense continues to be a mystery and was gashed badly two weeks ago against Miami. Hugh Freeze sees his group still as a work in progress but has shown a knack for exploiting the weaknesses of the defenses of other teams. Expect plenty of scoring in this one, with the Aggies able to pull away late.
SEC Preview #2: 🦈 No. 15 Ole Miss 🆚 🐘 No. 13 Alabama
Alabama fell this week to #13 in the AP Top 25. That is the lowest they’ve been ranked since 2015. It will pain Georgia fans to remind them of what happened the last time the Tide were ranked so low. Alabama crushed Georgia in their black uniforms 38-10 in Athens. This year’s Alabama team is fortunate to still be ranked in the Top 15 or at all. They have looked out of sorts for most of the season and struggled to put away a USF team last in the midst of a large rebuild. Jalen Milroe is back as the starter and now the pressure will be on Tide offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to scheme a game plan to put the Tide offense in a position to succeed. Look for another high-scoring match-up, a la 2020, with the Rebels giving the Tide a second straight home loss.
SEC Preview #3: 🐦 UTSA 🆚 🍊 No. 23 Tennessee
Danger Josh Heupel Danger! While that may be a poor impression of the robot from Lost in Space. Tennessee was overmatched and outplayed last weekend in the Swamp. A poor timeout and a few cheap shouts soured an already bad look for a team that was expecting to take the next step in 2023. Instead, the Volunteers were hurt partially due to Joe Milton’s inconsistencies. Milton can put up plenty of highlight throws, but until he can deliver on a consistent basis it will leave the Volunteers in uncertainty and chasing Georgia in the East. UTSA is 1-2 on the year and has shown some growing pains as they make the move from Conference USA to the AAC. If quarterback Frank Harris can come back healthy, they will prove to be a thorn in the Volunteers side most of the afternoon.
SEC Preview #4: 🐗 Arkansas 🆚 🐯 No. 12 LSU
Brian Kelly and LSU rained out to a 24-7 halftime lead last week and put the good vibes in Stark Vegas on ice. Jayden Daniels continued to put up video game numbers with 361 yards passing and 64 yards rushing accounting for four LSU touchdowns. His favorite target is Malik Nabers. Nabers caught 13 balls, both touchdowns, and hd almost 240 yards receving against the Bulldogs. The Tigers were strong on defense holding Mississippi State to under 100 yards rushing and just 107 yards passing. They face the Hogs who are sticking after BYU late come-from-behind 38-31 victory. Arkansas had too many self-inflicted wounds last week, committing 14 penalties for over 125 yards. Giving Daniels and the Tigers extra opportunities Saturday night will prove even costlier.
SEC Preview #5: 🐯 Memphis 🆚 🐯 Missouri
Mea culpa Tiger fans. Last week’s week three SEC preview predicted that Kansas State would take care of business against Missouri. Instead, the Tigers went toe-to-toe with the Wildcats, and Harrison Mevis’ 61-yard field goal as time expired capped off the upset over Kansas State. Missouri will have to show this week they can handle success, although they might be short-handed. Pete Thamel of ESPN reported that quarterback Brady Cook is questionable for Saturday’s game against Memphis. The junior was hit on the knee during the Kansas State game. If Cook is unable to go, Eli Drinkwitz will turn to transfer Jake Garcia. Garcia played in eight games for the Red Hawks, throwing for over 800 yards and five touchdowns.
Photo courtesy: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports