Pretty shocking news out of Tuscaloosa on Monday afternoon when Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was out effective immediately, an interesting decision a week before the national title game vs. Clemson.
Kiffin already has been hired as the new head coach at Florida Atlantic. So we knew he was leaving whenever Alabama's season ended and that former Washington and USC coach Steve Sarkisian was promoted by Saban to offensive coordinator. Again, though, this was all supposed to happen when the season ended. But now Sarkisian will call the plays vs. Clemson. This is a really gusty move by Saban. His team is a 7-point favorite on college football odds.
A lot of Alabama fans were ticked off at Kiffin after the Tide's 24-7 win over Washington on Saturday in the national semifinals. Alabama had a comfortable lead yet Kiffin got away from running the ball with Bo Scarbrough. He had just 13 carries midway through the fourth quarter despite him averaging over 8 yards per run. With Scarbrough’s 14th touch, he had a 68-yard run for a touchdown to give Alabama the final margin of victory. Take out his production and Alabama averaged 3.2 yards on the 45 plays in which Scarbrough didn't touch the ball.
“At the end of a game, when a guy’s got those numbers, you always look back and say ‘Give him the ball more.’ We just couldn’t get a rhythm going sometimes,” Kiffin said. “We had drives where we did, but then when you’re going fast, you can’t sub. They just stand over the ball, and then it doesn’t work. There were times when we were going and he wasn’t in and you want to get him in.”
Some other concerning statistics from the Alabama offense vs. the Huskies were that preseason All-American wide receiver Calvin Ridley had only 1 catch for 6 yards against the Huskies and the offense committed the bulk of an unusual 11 team penalties. The Crimson Tide opened three drives inside Washington territory, and came away with a single field goal. They punted eight times. Alabama probably will need more than 24 points to beat Clemson. The total for the game is 51.5 points on college football picks.
“We appreciate all that Lane has done for our football program over the last three years,” Saban said in a statement. “We sat down following the Washington game and talked about the time demands of managing both jobs, and we recognized that it is best for our players, and for Lane, that we allow him to turn his full attention to his new head coaching role at FAU.
“This wasn’t an easy decision and we appreciate the way Lane handled this in terms of doing what is best for our team. At the end of the day, both of us wanted to put our players in the best position to be successful. Obviously, we are in a unique situation here where we have our next offensive coordinator already on staff. We have full confidence that Sark will step in right away and make this a smooth transition.”
It should be noted that Saban kept on former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart through last year's title game even though Smart had accepted the Georgia head coaching job. In 2011, Jim McElwain remained on staff as Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the national championship after accepting the head coaching job at Colorado State.