College Football’s Troll King has been busy this week.
First, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin suggested that Nick Saban had secretly changed defensive coordinators at Alabama. Then, upon Saban’s annoyed denial of such a move, he claimed that someone within the Crimson Tide football office confirmed it to their friends on the Ole Miss staff regardless of what Saban said publicly.
After upsetting that apple cart — and perhaps sending Saban on a mission to smoke out the leaker within the program — Kiffin decided to take to Twitter and just randomly, for no reason at all, offer up his followers a Taylor Swift concert video.
The song? “Castles Crumbling.”
Swift has recorded more than 200 songs. This is a relative deep cut. So why choose that one (Lane’s Version)?
Well, let’s peruse the lyrics as the 15th-ranked Rebels prepare to visit a 13th-ranked Alabama team that after a double-digit home loss to Texas and a stumbling performance against South Florida look anything like one of Saban’s vintage contenders:
Once, I had an empire in a golden age
I was held up so high, I used to be great
They used to cheer when they saw my face
Now I fear I have fallen from grace
And I feel like my castle's crumbling down
And I watch all my bridges burn to the ground
And you don't want to know me
Oh there’s more.
Once, I was the great hope for a dynasty
Crowds would hang on my words, and they trusted me
Their faith was strong, but I pushed it too far
I held that grudge 'til it tore me apart
Power went to my head, and I couldn't stop
Ones I loved tried to help, so I ran them off
And here I sit alone, behind walls of regret
Falling down like promises that I never kept
This is Taylor Swift, so she doesn’t mince words. And this is Lane Kiffin, so he doesn’t randomly post such a song unless he’s trying to poke the 800-pound bear of Tuscaloosa. Yet even by Kiffin’s traditionally play-to-the-crowd ethos, that was, ah, rather pointed.
I used to be great … fallen from grace … power went to my head … my castle's crumbling down?
Alabama’s roster has 18 former 5-star recruits on it. Ole Miss has one. We’ll find out if hell hath no fury like a seven-time national championship coach being antagonized by the Swiftie over in Oxford.
Give Kiffin this much, he isn’t afraid to punch up. Most coaches would see a drifting Alabama team and try to quietly sneak into town and steal a rare Bryant-Denny victory.
That’s not Kiffin though. That’s never been Kiffin.
It’s not that he can’t help himself. It’s that he believes this is how he helps himself.
He created chaos with the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Vols. If anything, he was too restrained when he coached USC. At FAU and Ole Miss, he’s returned to form as a disruptor. It’s helped him win 22 of his last 30 games and construct a very strong roster capable of serious SEC contention this year.
It’s why, when asked in a news conference about Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Kiffin claimed that upon watching game footage it looked like Steele had been demoted in favor of cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson.
“It seems like there’s been a change there,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know what happened after the Texas game. But, you know, our guys watching the TV copy, schematically in this last game, it certainly seems like T-Rob’s now calling the defense.”
This was, even by Kiffin standards, an outrageous statement. Is it true? Who knows? Just suggesting it, though, forced Saban to respond and possibly toss a grenade into the defensive meetings at a time when the Tide’s quarterback situation remains in flux.
A clearly bothered Saban didn’t even wait to be asked by reporters before addressing the situation.
“On this other thing I hear floating around out there — I'm sure you've seen the same reports that I've seen — is that Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator," Saban said. "He has all the defensive coordinator responsibilities.”
Kiffin was undeterred and noted he was just answering a question and had no intention of creating “this big thing.”
He then essentially said Alabama staffers confirmed it and were leaking secrets.
“We looked into that further,” Kiffin said. “And then it ain't no secret that people in these buildings know each other, so we obviously got some information that way, too.”
Saban is 71. Kiffin is 48. Time is on the side of the Ole Miss coach, yet he isn’t going to just let the legend go out quietly.
Kiffin is also a big defender of Saban. He praises him constantly and mocks media suggestions that Alabama’s dynasty is over. It was Saban, after all, who helped turn around Kiffin’s career after he was fired by USC.
Kiffin spent three seasons (2014-16) as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, modernizing the offense and making Tuscaloosa attractive to truly elite quarterbacks which spurred a run of Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Bryce Young.
Saban also dramatically fired Kiffin after a 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Washington, in part because Bama scored only 24 points but also because Kiffin was about to leave to be head coach at FAU. The Tide went on to lose the national title game to Clemson, but Saban never expressed any regret in canning Kiffin mid-playoffs.
So maybe it’s complicated.
Or maybe it’s just Lane being Lane, daring to say whatever he wants to whomever he wants, including messing with the king and wondering about crumbled castles even before the game is played.
If the Tide are indeed teetering, then Kiffin has called his shot. Tuscaloosa awaits.