Chow vs. Monte

For 60 minutes this weekend Shields-Watkins Field will become the world's largest chess board, with Norm Chow and Monte Kiffin matching moves using live chess pieces.

Chow is the former Southern Cal offensive coordinator who is regarded by many as one of the great offensive minds of his time. He now serves as offensive coordinator for UCLA, and he'll be calling the Bruins' plays Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

Kiffin is a veteran of 26 seasons coaching in the NFL, where he built a reputation as one of the great defensive minds of his time. He now serves as defensive coordinator at Tennessee, and he'll be calling the Vols' defensive signals Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

If there could be a more compelling battle of wits in college football, it's hard to imagine what it might be.

"From a fans' and media perspective, I think it's a big-time match-up," Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin said. "It's kind of like a legends match-up. When you look at Norm Chow versus Monte Kiffin, that's a big chess match with arguably the best defensive coordinator in NFL history versus the best offensive coordinator in college history.

"I think it's a very intriguing match-up of two coaches."

Lane Kiffin, of course, is Monte's son. He also has a relationship with Chow, however. They coached together at Southern Cal for four years in the early 2000s. When Chow left to join the NFL's Tennessee Titans, Lane Kiffin succeeded him as the Trojans' offensive coordinator.

"That part helps us a little bit - being around Coach Chow," Kiffin said. "I was there for four years with him and I think Ed (Orgeron) was there for three years with him."

In addition, Monte Kiffin used to attend some of USC's practices while his son and Chow were fellow coaches. So, as Lane Kiffin noted, "We do have some background with him."

Tennessee's head coach frowned, however, when asked what bearing this background might have on Saturday's game.

"That has nothing to do with it," he said. "This is about preparing each day, getting our team ready to play against a very good team. Whoever's coaching, or whether myself or anyone on our staff has played in the rivalry, has nothing to do with it."

Chow won the grudging admiration of Tennessee fans last September. After UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw four first-half interceptions, Chow made some brilliant halftime adjustments. Craft turned into Tom Brady in the fourth quarter, guiding two touchdown drives that lifted the Bruins to a come-from-behind 27-24 victory.

Eric Berry, the Vols' All-America safety, hasn't forgotten Chow's wizardry.

"Yeah, I respect him a lot," Berry said. "He's a very good OC. Just the way he called those plays and managed to drive the ball down the field on us was very impressive."

It will be even more impressive if Chow can drive the ball down the field on Tennessee on Saturday. This time he'll be matching wits with another coaching legend, Monte Kiffin.

Their game within the game may be more entertaining than the contest itself.

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