USC Coach Lincoln Riley Predicted The Trojans’ Elite Season So Far … Sort Of

USC football coach Lincoln Riley may be from Lubbock, Texas, and spent most of his coaching career at Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

But he transitioned to Los Angeles time as quickly as a car entering one of the freeways there.

“Well, I’ve been in L.A. for a few hours,” Riley smiled at his introductory press conference a year ago this week when asked how much time he will need to “bring USC back to national prominence.”

Riley paused and said, “In this day and age, I think it can happen quickly. I do. I just look at it like, ‘How can we not do it? How’s it not going to work?’ No time is soon enough.”

USC football coach Lincoln Riley speaks during a news conference to introduce him at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Monday, Nov 29, 2021. (Photo by Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Soon, Riley and his family would move into a palatial new home just like the movie stars.

So, how about the first year?

The Trojans, who have never reached the College Football Playoff that began in 2014, are one win away from making the national semifinals on Dec. 31 at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, or the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The national championship game will be on Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California – seven miles south of the USC campus.

Lincoln Riley Is A National Coach Of The Year Candidate

Riley, 39, is up for national coach of the year after shunning interest from LSU last season and leaving Oklahoma for USC. A day after Riley went to USC, LSU hired Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly as its new coach. Riley hit the NCAA Transfer Portal and recruiting with super speed and efficiency and inherited some talented players as well.

Now, if No. 4 USC (11-1) beats No. 11 Utah (9-3) in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas Friday (8 p.m., FOX), the Trojans are in the playoffs. A win would erase USC’s only loss under Riley, which was 43-42 at Utah in Salt Lake City on a two-point conversion run by quarterback Cameron Rising with 48 seconds to go.

USC will also be trying to win the Pac-12 for the first time since 2017.

“I’ve stood by what I though my expectations were day one,” Riley said this week. “A lot of people thought I was crazy. And that’s fine. It’s been a fun run.”

USC Only Loss Was To Utah

USC has won five straight since the first Utah game, including the two most impressive back-to-back wins in the country. The Trojans beat No. 16 UCLA, 48-45, on Nov. 19 and then defeated No. 15 Notre Dame, 38-27, last Saturday with quarterback Caleb Williams making a strong bid for the Heisman Trophy. Williams, who was Oklahoma’s starting quarterback last season after beating out Spencer Rattler by mid-season, transferred to USC to play under Riley.

On Tuesday, USC jumped from No. 6 to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The final rankings will come out on Sunday (Noon, ESPN). If Riley reaches a semifinal, it will be his fourth. He was 0-3 at Oklahoma with losses to eventual national champion LSU, 63-28, in the 2019 season, 45-34 to Alabama in 2018 and 54-48 in two overtimes to Georgia in 2017.

“It’s a ring game,” said Riley, who won three Big 12 titles at Oklahoma. “And those are hard to get to. They’re fun.”

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) has a very good chance of winning the Heisman Trophy on Dec. 10. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Williams completed 25 of 42 passes for 381 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in the loss at Utah while rushing eight time for 57 yards.

“I think we’re as good as any team, and I’m not just talking about today,” Williams said after the win over Notre Dame. “The outside world is going to say what they have to say. And we’re 11-1 right now. So, obviously, it doesn’t matter. We’ve shown it. We’ve got a gritty team. And we have goals in mind that we want to reach.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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