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Our experts are picking Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss to beat Tennessee football. No mattresses burned.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel logo The Knoxville News-Sentinel 10/15/2021 Phil Kaplan, Knoxville News Sentinel
a group of people on a newspaper: The Knoxville News Sentinel Sports front on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 after Lane Kiffin announced his resignation as football coach at the University of Tennessee. © News Sentinel Archive The Knoxville News Sentinel Sports front on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 after Lane Kiffin announced his resignation as football coach at the University of Tennessee.

Knox News beat writer Adam Sparks did a splendid job recounting the evening when coach Lane Kiffin decided to leave Tennessee football for what he thought was a better job at Southern Cal.

I was working that evening as news broke. After assembling the reporting staff for coverage of mattress fires on campus and waiting for TV folks to end the silliness of debating about live coverage for Kiffin's hastily called news conference, there was work to be done. 

The front page and the sports front (and inside pages) of the News Sentinel had to be scrapped for breaking news. There was about two hours to get all of it done for print.   

The headline on A1 was  "Kiffin quits Vols" with photos from the presser and the student protest. We decided to go with "Lane Change" as the headline on the sports page. Although looking back it should have been "Exit Lane."  

It was the most chaotic night in my journalism career that spans five decades. 

And it leads us to Kiffin's return as a head coach to Knoxville when Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1 SEC) takes on the Vols (4-2, 2-1) at a sold out Neyland Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

I doubt any mattresses will be burned after the game when Kiffin leaves Knoxville this time, although both defenses could be torched by high-powered offenses. 

PREDICTIONS: National media leans Ole Miss in Lane Kiffin's return to Neyland

BLAKE TOPPMEYER: Tennessee football's Josh Heupel is similar to Lane Kiffin in one notable way

Ole Miss is favored by 2.5 points and the over/under is an astounding 83 points. 

The majority of our experts are picking Ole Miss to win and are somewhat split if the Rebels can cover. Either way it should be the best atmosphere for a football game in Knoxville in a very long time.  

Here we go.

Adam Sparks, Tennessee beat writer 

Ole Miss 42, Tennessee 38: The checkered crowd will get an entertaining game. But unless UT forces Ole Miss into turnover trouble, which it hasn’t experienced yet, Lane Kiffin will escape with a win. 

Mike Wilson, Tennessee beat writer

Tennessee 56, Ole Miss 53: For all the offensive focus, this matchup probably comes down to which defense plays better. Tennessee's has done well lately against lesser opponents. It does enough for the Vols to edge the Rebels.

Cora Hall,  Tennessee beat writer

Tennessee 45, Ole Miss 41: For this week's matchup, expect a lot of offense. I'm choosing to be optimistic based on Tennessee's offensive production and the fact that Ole Miss is coming to a sold out Neyland Stadium.

JOHN ADAMS: Can Tennessee Vols crowd get 1998 loud against Ole Miss?

Emily Adams, PrepXtra writer

Tennessee 41, Ole Miss 38: With Hendon Hooker locked in at the helm, the Vols won't disappoint in front of Neyland's first sold-out crowd since 2017.  

Blake Toppmeyer,  South Region SEC columnist

Ole Miss 49, Tennessee 38: Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker do a strong impersonation of Lane Kiffin and Matt Corral. But the sequel won’t match the original. As Kiffin exits Neyland Stadium for the first time as an opposing head coach, perhaps he’ll toss his play sheet into the air, take a bow and ask, “Do you miss me?”

John Adams, Knox News columnist 

Ole Miss 42, Tennessee 40: The crowd will give the Vols an edge. But it might not be loud enough to overcome the SEC's most potent offense. 

Gentry Estes, Tennessean columnist

Ole Miss 48, Tennessee 45: This looks like one of those wild, offensive shootouts that go into the final minute. These Rebels under Kiffin have known how to win like that.

SCOUTING REPORT: What to watch for in Tennessee vs. Ole Miss football game

Phil Kaplan, South Region SEC strategist

Ole Miss 50, Tennessee 27: With Evans unlikely to play and Small banged up, Ole Miss will defend the pass, forcing some balls in the secondary. And if UT's defense is on the field too long because Ole Miss is producing long drives, that makes for a tired team in the second half when the checkerboard show wears off.

Chris Thomas, South Region sports director 

Tennessee 45, Ole Miss 42: If Tennessee fans remember anything about Lane Kiffin's lone season in Knoxville, it's likely the stunning rout of Georgia inside Neyland Stadium and the closer-than-expected losses to Alabama and Florida on the road. Kiffin knows how to get his team up for a big game. But he also had a terrible loss at Ole Miss that season. Somehow that irony comes full circle Saturday.  

Tommy Deas, SEC cross teams leader

Ole Miss 52, Tennessee 33: Tennessee learns this week that it still has a long way to go. But with Hendon Hooker slinging it around in Josh Heupel’s offense and Lane Kiffin throwing clipboards on the other side, it will be fun to watch.

Nick Gray, South Region trending sports writer 

Ole Miss 52, Tennessee 50: Look familiar? This was the score of the basketball game between the two schools in February. Don’t know how good Matt Corral’s jumper is, but he’s going to be the best player on the field on Saturday night.

Tom Kreager, Tennessee high school sports editor 

Ole Miss 38, Tennessee 28: The Lane train rolls into Knoxville and leaves with a win.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Our experts are picking Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss to beat Tennessee football. No mattresses burned.

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