Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin said he believes if he had still been offensive coordinator for Alabama for last season's national championship game, the Tide would have beat Clemson for the College Football Playoff title.
Kiffin, the Tide's offensive coordinator for three seasons, was hired as Florida Atlantic coach on Dec. 12. He was the offensive playcaller for Alabama in the CFP semifinal against Washington and was expected to stay through the title game.
But a week before the final, Alabama coach Nick Saban announced that Kiffin was out immediately. Saban named Steve Sarkisian to replace Kiffin as Bama's offensive coordinator and playcaller for the title game.
Talking to the Washington Post this week, Kiffin said, "It's no disrespect to Steve. No matter who it was, you've been there all year long. You've been there for the quarterback. You're all he knew. You were undefeated together. We've won  straight games together. You feel like, okay, it's different.
"As great as Sark is, it's just different. Again, if it had been 14 points either way ... when it's one play here or there, you think if those guys had the person they were used to, it would have made a difference."
Kiffin said he watched the Clemson-Alabama game in a room at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
"It was rough," Kiffin said Tuesday. "It got really rough when you watched the game. At first, the idea of, 'Okay, do your job. Focus on this one.' But really when you watched it, and because they lost, and it was so close.
"If they lose by a lot, you don't feel like, 'Okay, would there have been a difference?' You lose by one play, one second, it's natural to think, 'Okay, you could have made a difference.' If they won, it wouldn't have mattered. I would have just been happy for them. That was the hardest part, how it ended."
Kiffin's ouster for the title game came following a lackluster offensive outing in the semifinal against Washington and some inflammatory comments Kiffin made about Saban to Sports Illustrated.
Kiffin begins his next challenge on Friday, when Florida Atlantic opens its season against Navy.
"I really don't feel like I'm back to being a head coach," Kiffin said. "I've done it before for so long that it's just kind of like, you're doing it again. But I do think that I'm much more prepared this time, having spent three years with Coach Saban, learning from him."