With streaks abound, Kiffin says ‘cardiac kids’ at No. 9 Ole Miss could surprise No. 2 Georgia 

Lane Kiffin Ole Miss

Lane Kiffin has a rule. 

That rule is that the Rebels refrain from talking about the College Football Playoff throughout the year. It’s something that makes Kiffin unique to his players even though they’re well within striking distance of the Playoff. 

“We don’t ever talk about that because I think that’s out of our control,” Kiffin said. “I think people get up and start lobbying about that and focus on that and you see a lot of people do that and then lose.” 

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But maybe Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has a rule of his own — he doesn’t respond to text messages during game week. 

That’s what Kiffin said he’s gotten in the days leading up to Saturday’s top-10 bout between No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 2 Georgia. Kiffin said there’s a group text chat among Southeastern Conference coaches, and Smart has yet to give him a ring. 

“Maybe he has a rule during the week of the game he doesn’t respond to you,” Kiffin said. “Obviously it goes without saying like he’s done an unbelievable job and they’re in the midst of a run. I think I read where No. 1 in the country for so many weeks and the next one to catch is the USC run when I happened to be an assistant there so that just tells you how hard it is to do what they’re doing to stay No. 1 that long to be close to a three-peat is really phenomenal at anytime let alone nowadays with scholarship limitations, portal and everything.”  

The Rebels will get a crack at the nation’s two-time defending national champion Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since Ole Miss won 45-14 in 2016. 

Georgia will enter on a 26-game winning streak having not lost a regular season game since 2020. The Bulldogs will have a chance to set a new program record as they ride a 24-game home winning streak, something Kiffin and the Rebels are tasked with stopping. 

“There’s not a lot of answers out there how to beat these guys at home,” Kiffin said. “A lot of people have tried, and so we got to have a really good week of practice. This is a very challenging combination now of having elite phenomenal players and elite phenomenal coaches combined and on the road so there’s a trifecta of what’s the hardest thing to pull off and this would be it.” 

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Kiffin has experience being a part of winning streaks. He was an assistant coach at USC when the Trojans won 34-consecutive games from 2003-05, and he was also offensive coordinator at Alabama when the Crimson Tide went 40-4 from 2014-16 including a 26-game winning streak. 

“I think those two examples there of being fortunate to be at USC when we won 34-straight I think before we couldn’t tackle Vince Young and when I left Alabama I think we were at 26 straight or something,” Kiffin said. “To be a part of that is the only way that happens is a phenomenal head coach that has like Pete Carroll and Nick Saban and now Kirby Smart to be able to hold that together to be able to manage when you’re going to have down games, things aren’t going to go well, it’s football, and to overcome those poor games to me is what being a super elite program and super elite head coach is about.” 

The current Ole Miss team under Kiffin is currently on a five-game winning streak. The only slip up for the Rebels this season is a 24-10 loss to the Crimson Tide in Week 4. 

Ole Miss boasts the No. 3 total offense in the SEC averaging 478.9 yards per game. Quarterback Jaxson Dart is fifth among passers in the conference with 2,467 yards. 

The Rebels have won three of their past five games by one possession. Last week, the Rebels fought off a comeback bid by Texas A&M and thwarted the Aggies 38-35 as running back Quinshon Judkins ran in the go-ahead score in the final two minutes, and Kiffin had a new nickname for his team. 

“I joked with them they’re kind of like the cardiac kids,” Kiffin said. “To have so many like games that go to the wire, got to come back from being behind in fourth quarters. So I don’t know that I really remember this many within a season, especially not a full season yet but it says a lot about them. This is a really cool group of kids to coach. And you guys know, I’m very honest, that for every year it isn’t like that. It just is what it is. And this is a really, really neat group that overcomes things.” 

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Kiffin said he thinks Ole Miss runs “a pretty unique offense” and added the caveat “when it’s working.” It’s a high-powered offense with a good balance between passing and running, as Dart and Judkins both rank in the top-five in passing and rushing yards in the conference, respectively. 

What Kiffin wants to do is limit the “super elite defensive talent” that Georgia has, as the Bulldogs secondary is loaded with All-Americans in safeties Javon Bullard and Malaki Starks. 

And what else Kiffin wants to do is lead the Ole Miss team into doing something not many people expect. 

“I kind of feel like this one’s different whether it’s right or wrong,” Kiffin said. “It’s kind of more like playing with house’s money meaning no one expects us to win. We’re double-digit underdogs and feel like those big games over the years, the places and stuff, those were more like they were the big game or the national game and the teams were considered close. I think that no one’s expecting us to win or probably even play them close so just go in there and see what happens.”