- Jake Elman Special to The Post
The oft-controversial (but always quote-worthy) Lane Kiffin joined the oft-controversial (but always quote-worthy) Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN’s “First Take” on Tuesday morning.
Kiffin, who was introduced to the show as having led FAU (11-3) to more wins this season than in the past three years, has been featured in the network’s College Football Playoff coverage. The Alabama Crimson Tide, for whom Kiffin was the offensive coordinator from 2014-16, will face Georgia in the CFP championship game on Jan. 8.
“I’d say look out college football because Nick Saban has always done the same thing for every bowl game,” Kiffin said of the No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide’s 24-6 Sugar Bowl victory over No. 1-ranked Clemson on Monday night. “You never want to play Nick Saban at the end of the year. He blows people out.”
Though he led FAU to arguably its best season in program history and recently signed a six-year extension, Kiffin was mainly asked about the College Football Playoff. Kiffin did briefly mention his pride in his players, again comparing them to kids who grew up with nothing and finally got “something.”
Tuesday’s “First Take” appearance was the second time in two days Kiffin appeared on ESPN programming. The well-traveled coach also appeared on the network’s signature “College Gameday” program on Monday, picking Alabama and Oklahoma to win that night.
Alabama lived up to expectations, but it was Georgia which took down Oklahoma by a 54-48 final in double overtime.
“I didn’t realize Oklahoma’s defense was that poor,” Kiffin said, praising Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm — who nearly joined Kiffin and Saban at Alabama before flipping to the Bulldogs when Kirby Smart was hired as head coach two years ago.
As for Saban, who Kiffin has jokingly referenced in tweets about “rat poison” and not being on Twitter, the ex-Crimson Tide assistant was uncharacteristically serious when explaining why his old boss is consistently successful.
“Obviously, great schemes, he’s always had great defensive schemes … But this starts with recruiting,” Kiffin said. “Nick Saban out-recruits everybody in the country. Obviously because of the success, putting guys into the NFL, into the first round, but tireless recruiting. He recruits 365 days a year. … Every time they go onto the field, they have better players than everyone they play and most of the time, it’s not even close.”
Kiffin had high praise for Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, comparing the Heisman winner to NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Mayfield is projected by many to be a first-round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft despite worries about his maturity stemming from a string of on- and off-the-field incidents.
No stranger to people questioning his maturity, Kiffin — who coached the Oakland Raiders from 2007-08 — said he wouldn’t be worried if he was thinking about drafting Mayfield onto his NFL team.
“The passion that he played with, the energy that he plays with, and some people call it cocky or arrogant,” Kiffin said. “I call it leadership.”