Graphic provided by Ole Miss Football Twitter
Let’s just put this out there: Lane Kiffin isn’t getting fired if he drops a game to a bad Auburn team, no matter what some random journalist might say. Ole Miss has a good football team. Auburn is not very good. Then why does Vegas have the spread at just 6.5 points in favor of the Rebels? Because rivalry games, especially night games on the road, are weird. While this is not a traditional rivalry like the Iron Bowl or the Egg Bowl, recent events have seriously upped the ante in this series.
Ole Miss put up 700 yards of offense en route to beating LSU a few weeks ago. That same LSU team just beat Auburn like a drum, but even casual football fans know the transitive property doesn’t work in this game. This matchup is a lot more nuanced than a 5-1 team facing a 3-3 team. For starters, you have the coaching drama that began last season when Auburn fired Bryan Harsin. Auburn fans desperately wanted Lane Kiffin to be their next coach. They analyzed his every move, from tracking flights out of University-Oxford Airport, to trying to decipher every tweet he sent. Lane ultimately took a hefty pay raise to stay in Oxford and crush every Auburn fan’s dream.
The other, equally-interesting layer to this game is that Auburn ended up hiring the coach we fired in 2017. Those of us who were lucky enough to be students during the Hugh Freeze era remember the roller coaster of a ride that was his tenure at Ole Miss. During my junior year, we beat Alabama, then ended the season with blowout losses to Arkansas and TCU. Freeze hasn’t changed his interesting approach as a coach after all these years. This season, Auburn barely beat a bad Cal team, then went on to almost beat #1 Georgia, before getting absolutely dominated by LSU. When people refer to a “trap game,” this is exactly the matchup they’re talking about. Auburn fans will pack Jordan-Hare and bring the same energy they do to the Iron Bowl.
You can see why firing Lane Kiffin for a loss to Auburn would be ridiculous. He’s one of the highest-paid coaches in the nation. His buyout would set the boosters back significantly, and who would we hire to take his place? He took a doormat SEC team, fresh off NCAA sanctions, and won 10 games with them in year 2. This game is a must win. It would be a very bad look to lose to this Auburn team. But let’s pump the brakes with the wild calls for someone’s head over one game.
In this business, one has to choose what kind of writer he wants to be. Do you fire off ridiculous takes all the time, dig in when people react, then move on to the next argument? Some have definitely taken that route (looking at you, Dan Wolken). The only problem with this approach is people will never take you seriously again. You’ll be known as the heel, existing only to bait the most gullible of college football fans, while the rest just ignore you. That’s why I propose Joe Goodman puts his money where his mouth is and resigns if Lane wins this Saturday. If a coach should lose his job for a bad loss, then a writer should lose his job for a terrible article. I’ve probably been to half a dozen businesses this week that are hiring, from Texas Roadhouse to Ace Hardware. It might be time to get serious as a writer, or seek out your true calling. Go Rebels.