A significant task awaits Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game, but the challenge is one that Kiffin has overcome before.
Kiffin will have to match wits with Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables — a coach generally believed to be one of the best defensive minds in the game, and for good reason. Venables is paid $1.35 million per season, and his defense finished second last year in Football Outsiders defensive efficiency metric and seventh this season despite the fact that the Tigers only returned four starters on that side of the ball.
Clemson’s defense is also fresh off of a dismantling of Oklahoma’s explosive offense in its blowout win in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
None of this should be a problem for Kiffin though, because Kiffin has already taken down plenty of highly regarded defensive coordinators in just this year alone.
For instance, there was the regular season finale against archrival Auburn in the Iron Bowl where Kiffin’s counterpart —then Auburn defensive coordinator and now South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp — was torched for 465 yards of total offense leading to a lopsided, 29-13, final score which no doubt caused Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs to question the $1.6 million he had invested in Muschamp for that season.
What Kiffin did to Muschamp though is no comparison to what he did to former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt when the Crimson Tide traveled to Athens, Ga. to take on the Bulldogs. The final score on that October Saturday was 38-10 and Kiffin had Pruitt guessing at his next move all day long, which should make for some tense coaches meetings at Alabama next season now that the two will be colleagues working for Nick Saban.
The week after the Georgia game, Kiffin also had a big day against John Chavis at Texas A&M, who had been brought to College Station, Texas. to turn around the Aggies defense.But on this day Chavis would have no answer for the Alabama rushing attack led by running back Derrick Henry and guided by Kiffin.
However, it wasn’t only SEC coordinators that Kiffin beat up on this season. Alabama played Wisconsin to open the year, and the Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, a man so respected in the coaching profession that LSU just recently doubled his salary to take over the Tigers defense, was toppled … the Alabama game wasn’t one to bolster Aranda’s resume. Wisconsin gave up 502 yards and 35 points as Kiffin provided Alabama fans with an early glimpse of just how good the Crimson Tide’s offense would turn out.
So while it’s true that Venables may be among the best defensive coordinators in America, that might not matter too much on Monday night in the national title game. Kiffin has already gone head-to-head with many of the other top defensive minds in the sport, and so far, in every single instance Kiffin has come out on top.