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Kiffin trolls Saban in advance of Rebels-Tide battle

Say this for Lane Kiffin: He's equal opportunity with his trolling.

Think of him as the “South Park” of collegiate coaches: nothing and no one is off limits.

Especially not his former employer Nick Saban, the iron-willed force of the Alabama juggernaut.

The subject? 'Bama's ability, or rather Saban's specifically, to keep any of his top-tiered players and likely future NFL Draft early-round selections from electing to skip this truncated season.

Last month, The Sporting News projected eight Alabama prospects in the Top 50 of the 2021 NFL Draft; CBSSports tabbed seven Tide players, including six of its top 28 prospects.

“I don't know how Alabama did this,” Kiffin said in wrapping up his Monday Zoom with media. “It's amazing.

“Coach (Saban) did a great job of somehow keeping these guys happy and not feeling that they needed to get ready for the Draft with all these first-rounders. Guys around the country are opting out but none of the Alabama guys. So, Coach must have had a great plan.”

After Kiffin spent three years, minus one game in which Kiffin was asked to leave early once he accepted the Florida Atlantic University head coaching post, as Saban's Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, Kiffin faces Saban this week as Ole Miss (1-1, 1-1 SEC) hosts the No. 2-ranked Tide (2-0, 2-0). Kickoff is 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Kiffin was asked about his own player, Donta Evans, and shared that Evans had opted out of this season with the Rebels; Kiffin then used that moment to segue into Bama's ability to retain all of its top players as he ended his 15-minute session.

Earlier in the press conference, Kiffin had downplayed the personal nature of the matchup while he also pointed out Kiffin's own odds this week, with history as foundation, weren't very good as a former assistant facing Saban.

“Well all these people would say that it's an advantage because I worked with him,” Kiffin said. “I don't really understand that. He's 20-0 against coaches that worked for him. If you working for him gives you an advantage, you're not a very good gambler, because 20-0 is a pretty strong record."

While former assistants cannot or have not utilized their time with Saban to knock off college football's most successful coach and program of the past decade, Kiffin said that Saban clearly had used his knowledge of those former staffers to benefit the Tide program.

"He knows them too,” Kiffin said. “Everybody says, 'They know him.' Well, he knows the assistants. I think it goes both ways.

“Except for Ole Miss those two times and a few Iron Bowls, he's 100 percent against everybody else really until you get to Clemson in the playoffs. He's 100 percent against a lot of coaches and schools."

Next up>Kiffin, Leach & Coach Prime keeping all eyes on the 'Sip