"I'm surprised it's not higher."
Is this is same guy who called Urban Meyer a cheater? Of course it is. Kiffin, for what he lacks in experience, has enough sense to play the media and build a system. Ed Orgeron could be crazy, but he is a crazy man with four National Championships as an assistant and was a head coach in the SEC. Monte Kiffin might be 100 years old, but he was the architech of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. Yes, the offensive staff does not have that gravitas, but defense wins championships, right?
Getting back to Kiffin acting as if being a 29 point underdog is a good thing, Kiffin is taking credit away from his rival and putting it back on his team. By acting like Florida should win by 29, if it actually happens, it is no big deal. It also works as inspiration; his team wants to prove to Kiffin that their crapfest against UCLA was a fluke and they can beat Florida. Either way, his team benefits.
The biggest mistake the Gators and other SEC teams can make is that they underestimate Kiffin. Maybe Florida, Georgia and Alabama all beat the crap out of the Vols this season. Wasn't Urban Meyer's losses in his first season to Bama, LSU and South Carolina just as bad? We won't know until next season how many losses in 2009 were because Kiffin sucks or he doesn't have the players. It seems more likely to me that Kiffin will be successful and 2009's losses have more to do with Phil Fulmer's inability to recruit. Tennessee has to recruit nationally since their state lacks the talent of Florida, Louisiana, Texas or California. Recruiting nationally will not be impacted by Florida defeating Tennessee by 29. It will be impacted by the perception of that margin. Think of it this way, what do you think of first; Florida's margin of victory against Miami and Georgia in 2008? Or Meyer sending out his kicker with the game in hand against the Canes and Meyer calling time outs to finish the UGA game? Kiffin might not avoid those blowouts, but he could avoid the perception that the Vols were embarassed.
Maybe Kiffin got this gig based on his last name, but not everyone who benefits from nepotism sucks at their job. Kiffin has been successful enough to coach at USC and the NFL, even if it was for Oakland. You don't get that far on being handsome with a famous dad and a hot wife. You actually have to be talented. Kiffin has it and he has already shown that he knows how to use it.