Lane Kiffin has cemented himself as the second most successful coach in Ole Miss history and very likely the most successful in the last 50 years.
A second 10-win regular season record puts him in rarified air with legend Johnny Vaught as the only two men to reach that win mark twice. Now while Vaught didn’t do it in the regular season, those seasons also had fewer games comparatively.
So what kind of grade should fans give Kiffin and Ole Miss for a 10-2 season and potentially New Year’s Six bowl appearance? I’m going to go with an A-, and I don’t think that’s too harsh.
It’s a subjective situation for each fan. For me, I thought this team was a couple significant injuries away from being pretty mediocre, and throughout this season, I have changed that opinion as Ulysses Bentley, Tre Harris and several other players showed their growth or ability to play at a high level.
The offensive line at times was pretty rough, and it led me to think Jaxson Dart would end up on the injured list. I think it’s really obvious the Rebels got very lucky that did not happen, but it came close to happening. Dart’s Egg Bowl finale showed his toughness though he was clearly not the same healthwise as earlier in the season.
The defense was vastly improved from the hire of Pete Golding as defensive coordinator. Yards per game, turnovers and the swagger was back a little bit more as explosive plays were more limited this season.
By far, there was one area where this program has to improve - recruiting and preparation for the biggest games of the year. Ole Miss just does not have the players to run with Alabama and Georgia right now, and this has got to improve for us fans who want to see the Rebels in a SEC championship situation.
The preparation for the biggest games comes down to again Alabama and Georgia. Kiffin seemed maybe too tight or too loose going into each of these games, and I’m not just talking about the jabs on social media. He’s going to do his schtick on X and in press conferences about other coaches or teams, that’s just a given.
But Kiffin said himself the coaches were too tight and anxious about Alabama, and it wore off on the team. Then the staff seemingly swung in the opposite direction for the Georgia road trip and got demolished being too relaxed.
Also, there’s the thought that many fans looked at this schedule preseason and audibly said, “this team can go 10-2 if the Rebels play to their potential.” So it is a great accomplishment, not taking anything away from it, but there’s also some portion of the fanbase who thought this would be the outcome.
And that’s how high expectations have been raised by Kiffin, his staff and the players. With the SEC expanding, future seasons may become even harder to get to the 10-win plateau, but with the College Football Playoffs expanding, that win total could be the key into getting a chance to play for a National Championship.