Why Tennessee football fans should support Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss Rebels

Lane Kiffin joined the thousands of Tennessee football fans inside Neyland Stadium with a singular hope Saturday: Please, split the uprights, Chase McGrath.

“Make it this time,” the Ole Miss coach tweeted before McGrath’s wobbly field goal from 40 yards just cleared the crossbar for a 52-49 Tennessee upset of No. 1 Alabama.

Kiffin threw his allegiance behind the Vols all day, saying on ESPN’s “College GameDay” in the morning: “Let’s both beat the state of Alabama today. Go Vols.”.

Kiffin did his part first, with Ole Miss beating Auburn 48-34.

It’s not surprising Kiffin, who coached Tennessee in 2009 before ditching the Vols in favor of Southern Cal, would support Tennessee. For one, the third-year Ole Miss coach likes flirting with the Vols from afar. He’s often quick with a supportive word for Tennessee.

NCAA RE-RANK:Alabama takes big fall, while Tennessee joins top four.

MISERY INDEX:Penn State can’t compete with the best teams in the Big Ten.

WINNERS, LOSERS:Tennessee topples Alabama; Michigan rolls; Utah beats USC.

COACHES POLL:There’s a new team at the top after Alabama’s loss.

But, more importantly for Kiffin’s present situation, Alabama losing helps Ole Miss’ positioning as both compete for the SEC West crown.

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Ole Miss (7-0, 3-0 SEC) now sits alone atop the division, although the Rebels’ schedule stiffens significantly, starting Saturday at LSU (5-2, 3-1).

Vols fans should be shouting “Hotty Toddy” for the next month and a half, rooting for Ole Miss to win the West.

Why?

Because if Tennessee (6-0, 3-0) wins the SEC East, it should hope to avoid a rematch with Alabama (6-1, 3-1) in the SEC Championship.

Beating Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide once took all 60 minutes and the help of a sold-out crowd, plus a number of Alabama gaffes.

True, Tennessee left some points on the field, but you don’t want to face Alabama a second time (and then possibly a third time in the College Football Playoff).

Tennessee and Ole Miss face a challenging road to Atlanta. Along with LSU, Ole Miss must play Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State. That back-loaded schedule may come home to roost.

Meanwhile, Tennessee must play undefeated reigning national champion Georgia (7-0, 4-0) on Nov. 5 in Athens.

Ole Miss’ offense is gaining steam, and the Rebels pace the SEC in rushing. Tennessee is the conference’s passing leader. Both operate at a warp-speed tempo.

Ole Miss’ defense, though, showed vulnerability in back-to-back wins against two of the SEC’s weakest members, Vanderbilt and Auburn. And Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, much like Florida’s Anthony Richardson, enjoyed playing against UT’s defense.

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium scoreboard may not be able to keep up if Tennessee and Ole Miss meet in Atlanta.

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Tennessee is cleansing old wounds this season. It beat Florida for just the second time in the past 18 tries. It snapped a 15-game losing streak against Alabama.

Kiffin reveled in Ole Miss beating Tennessee 31-26 last season in front of a hostile crowd at Neyland Stadium.

Thanks in no small part to his transfer portal maneuverings, Kiffin has assembled another good team.

Good enough for the Rebels to make Atlanta?

It’s no easy road, but Vols fans should root for that outcome.