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Lane Kiffin makes his return to Knoxville as a head coach on a mission

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Choo choooooo!

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Mississippi Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

There will be thousands and thousands of words about Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville this Saturday when Ole Miss and Tennessee square off in Neyland Stadium.

The history is there between the coach and the school. We’ve all heard the story hundreds of times by now and how it is painted in puke orange drama. I mean, his son is named “Knox” for Pete’s sake — there’s a lot of symbolism and what not happening here.

But does this game truly mean more for the second year head coach at Ole Miss? I think it kind of has to, though it’s not about revenge or showing the program he left what he has become as a ball coach.

After a one-point thriller of a W over No. 17 Arkansas, the rest of the SEC got kinda drunk on Saturday, and there are no unbeatens left in the Western division. Which means... it’s wide open for almost any team to make a run - including the No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels (4-1, 1-1 SEC).

Kiffin’s comments and demeanor in press conferences this season have been refreshing or in other words completely different from any other head coach at Ole Miss ever. When the defense is terrible, he doesn’t sugarcoat the fact the defense was horrible. When the offense is clicking, he talks about how great they are playing.

But more than that, even after a win, Kiffin doesn’t seem satisfied whether its from how many points were scored by the opposition or mistakes made somewhere in the game. It’s the man on a mission mentality that seems to have rubbed off on the players and the entire program, and why every game from here on out will mean more.

“Honestly, yeah it was a big game but we had to do our job and we did our job,” said quarterback Matt Corral after Saturday’s game. “We got the win and we did what we were supposed to do.”

Ok, maybe Ole Miss has had plenty of players say exactly that in the past, but now it just feels different with this squad. They have a confidence and swagger on offense for good reason as one of the most high powered offensive teams in the country, though the mindset stays its just another game and do your job.

There’s been reports of Kiffin playing “Rocky Top” during practices in the offseason as the coach knows the loud and raucous crowd that awaits his team this Saturday. It’s a great tactic to get the team focused in, and I think it’s also a nod to a really simple fact — if you’re hearing that band play, the game isn’t likely going your way. Shut off all the outside noise and go win.