Outback Bowl will be a homecoming of sorts for Lane Kiffin and Tom Allen
OXFORD, Miss. — As a bowl game, the Outback Bowl in Tampa is considered a beautiful destination for a team to be invited. For the two teams playing Jan. 2 in Raymond James Stadium, it is a fantastic place to spend a few days. For the two coaches, Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss and Indiana’s Tom Allen, it is a homecoming of sorts.
Allen started his coaching career at Temple Heights High School in Tampa and then moved to nearby Armwood High in Seffner before embarking on his college tenures. Kiffin has spent a lot of time in Tampa. His father, Monte, was the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2008.
After Ole Miss suffered a disappointing 53-48 loss at LSU last week, the bid was a welcomed relief for both the Rebels and Kiffin.
“The bowl announcement I think helped a little bit (ease the pain of the loss to LSU),” Kiffin said. “That’s exciting. That’s a really good bowl, one I remember when I was younger going to in the Big Sombrero there.”
The “Big Sombrero” was the nickname given to old Tampa Stadium, the original home to the bowl game that was closed in 1998 and destroyed in 1999.
Indiana hired Allen after he had served as the defensive coordinator at Tampa’s University of South Florida in 2015. He realizes it is a special opportunity to play a bowl game in the Sunshine State. A bonus is Florida has a more relaxed protocol when in comes to the coronavirus allowing more people to gather in public places – including the Outback Bowl.
“There’s no question, just being in the whole state, any bowl site in that state is a big deal,” Allen said.
“And the fact that we can actually have fans, our fans have not seen us play and I am so excited our fans get to come to this game, I know that there’s going to be a limit, but it’s more than just parents like all our games have been.”
Indiana head coach Tom Allen
The Hoosiers who played in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville last year, are 6-1 on the season and it is a surprise they were not selected to a New Year’s Six bowl, a fact that was not lost on Kiffin.
“I was shocked they were in it (the Outback Bowl),” Kiffin said. “I didn’t really understand. It’s just kind of like this year, there’s crazy stuff in college football. I look at rankings and see USC ahead of Oregon, but Oregon just beat them. Oregon is going to the Fiesta Bowl, and these guys (Indiana) are 6-1, and they’re not in a New Year’s Six bowl. Not just singling out Oregon. It’s just a bizarre year in general. I think it should be good for our players to get motivated that you’re playing a great team. Statistically, they have special things. I think they’re first in the country in interceptions. I want to say they’re first in the country in another significant category. These guys are playing great defense.”
Allen realizes his defense will have its hands full with the Ole Miss offense as well.
“We’re playing a really good football team I mean they score 50 points it seems every time I look at score of all their games,” Allen said.
“So, tons of athletes, I’ve coached in that league, I’ve coached at that university and I know I’ve gotten text messages from a lot of their support staff who I’ve known forever excited to see us again, so the bottom line is we’re playing a really good football team.”
Coach Tom Allen
Those staffers got to know Allen well when he served as the Rebels’ linebacker and special teams’ coach from 2012-14.
The bowl experience this year would be more enjoyable for the players and coaches if this had been a normal season. This season, however, there will be no ancillary event held in conjunction with the game. There will be no visit to the beach, no trip to Busch Gardens and no interaction with the opposing team prior to the game.
In a sense, it is just another road trip.
“It’s not like a normal bowl game,” Kiffin said. “We don’t leave until Thursday. The game’s on Saturday. We’ll treat it like a normal Saturday game, we’ll just leave one day earlier. They will have off I think two-and-a-half days over Christmas. They come back the night of the 26th. Then we go to work with practice, have a day off and we’re in a normal Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, go down there, have fast Friday down there and play on Saturday. We kind of bargained with them, ‘Hey guys, we’re not going out when we get there. I know that’s frustrating because you’re going to want to go out because it’s a bowl game but it’s two nights before the game. We’re going to stay Saturday night, give them some time to go enjoy Tampa and feel like a bowl game.”
Indiana plans to leave Bloomington either Thursday or Friday to escape the colder, Midwest temperatures.
Despite the lack of outside events normally provided, Allen, like Kiffin, wants his team focused on the game itself.
“The reality is when you get to play one more game together as a football team,” Allen said. “That’s a special thing.”
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. (EST) and will be broadcast on ABC.