Lane Kiffin Bowl? Three questions Ole Miss, USC will answer before 2025

Sporting News

USC and Ole Miss scheduled a future home-and-home series in 2025-26 on Monday, and that immediately brought former USC coach Lane Kiffin into focus.

That was acknowledged on Twitter.

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Kiffin, of course, compiled a 28-15 record at USC from 2010 to 2013 but was fired on the airport tarmac after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28, 2013.

That potential matchup is a long way off, but it still evokes three questions about Kiffin's potential return to Los Angeles.

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Will Kiffin still be at Ole Miss?

Kiffin's turned his coaching career around after the stint at USC. He was the offensive coordinator at Alabama for three years before taking a head coaching job at FAU — where he led the Owls to a pair of Conference-USA championships.

Kiffin is back in the SEC with Ole Miss — and he would theoretically be in his sixth season in 2025. David Cutcliffe is the last Rebels' coach to make it more than five seasons.

Kiffin could flame out, or he could have enough success that an even bigger Power 5 job could be waiting. Kiffin hasn't stayed in one place for more than five years since he was an assistant coach with the Trojans from 2001 to 2006.

Will we still be talking about Clay Helton?

Helton enters another pivotal season now in new athletic director Mike Bohn's first full season, and the embattled USC coach has compiled a 13-12 record the past two seasons.

Helton does have a talented roster returning, led by quarterback Kedon Slovis and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, but the pressure to return to the Pac-12 championship game is high heading into the 2020 season.

If the Trojans struggle this season, then the noise around Helton will continue. That comes in the form of more Urban Meyer rumors along with the remorse from letting Ed Orgeron go to LSU after his interim stint in 2013.

That said, Helton has USC back on track on the recruiting trail. The Trojans currently have the No. 5 class for 2021, according to 247Sports.com.

Can he keep that momentum going through 2025? That remains to be seen.

Which program will be in better shape?

USC had an 86-45 record from 2010 to 2019, the 17th-best mark among Power 5 programs. The Trojans have had ups and downs, and Kiffin was the first of three replacements since Pete Carroll left after the 2009 season.

The Trojans' expectations, however, are to get back to the level to which Carroll took the program. USC has won the Pac-12 championship game just once in nine seasons. That's not the expectation for the blue-blood program, and Helton is tasked with, at minimum, getting back to that level of success. USC isn't going to wait five years for another conference championship.

Ole Miss finished 10-3 and reached the Sugar Bowl under Hugh Freeze in 2015, but the program also forfeited 33 victories as part of NCAA sanctions at the end of the Freeze era. Kiffin is tasked with leading the program to success in the toughest division in the FBS without getting the program in more trouble with the NCAA.

Both programs have challenges over the next five years, but this home-and-home will be extra special if Kiffin is still around.

It will mean his stint at Ole Miss worked.

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