‘Scared Money Doesn’t Make Money:’ Look for Analytics to Guide Lane Kiffin’s 4th-down Decisions against Baylor
“River boat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabelle,
Luck is the lady that he loves the best,
Traveling ’round New Orleans,
Living on jacks and queens,
Maverick is the legend of the West.”
George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
NEW ORLEANS – A native of the West and a temporary resident in New Orleans this week, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is the closest thing the Allstate Sugar Bowl has to the fictional gambler Bret Maverick.
Yet, Kiffin’s gambles are far from fiction. In fact, he can almost be counted on to forgo a punt and attempt to gain a first down quite often. In 2021, the Rebels attempted to convert fourth down 42 times (26 times successfully, for a .619 percentage)
In contrast, Ole Miss punter Mac Brown kicked just 38 times this season.
“A lot of people don’t do it because it’s scared money,” Kiffin said earlier in the season.
“When you’re at the blackjack table and you have $5, it’s easy. Put a couple thousand out there and now you get scared. I said we weren’t going to do that.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
Ole Miss was never scared to go for it.
“Scared money doesn’t make money,” Kiffin, in fact, said earlier this season.
The Rebels attempted to convert a fourth down in each game this season. Against Austin Peay, Ole Miss was 4-of-6 on fourth-down conversions, the most it attempted in one game. In three consecutive games the Rebels attempted five times.
Ole Miss was 5-of-5 against Tulane and 4-of-5 versus Arkansas. Sandwiched between those two wins was a 2-for-5 performance in a loss to Alabama.
Following that game, Kiffin explained his decisions.
“I’m sure I got killed on going for it on fourth down,” Kiffin said.
“That’s analytics. We believe in our players. It doesn’t work all the time. When it doesn’t work and you follow the book, it doesn’t look good. But also, that’s why it’s analytics and not just doing whatever you want to do. You can have a punt blocked or give up a punt return for a net of absolutely nothing.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on analytics
Tonight in the Sugar Bowl, Ole Miss will face a Baylor defense that surrendered just 12 fourth-down conversions in 21 attempts. And no stop was bigger for the Bears than when they stopped Oklahoma State short from inside the 1-yard line to win the Big 12 Championship game.
Will the Bears’ stingy defense dissuade Kiffin for going for it in the Superdome?
Don’t bet on it.
Also, keep an eye out on the Bears’ fourth downs, too. Ole Miss and Baylor rank 1st and 2nd in 4th down attempts in the Power 5. While the Rebs have converted at a .619 clip, the Bears have converted 22 of 33 fourth-down attempts for a .667 rate.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.