Hot Take of the Week: College Football Edition
Updated: Apr 27
Riley, during his first spring game as coach of the Trojans. (On3 Sports/Scott Schrader)
November 20, 2021. The USC Trojans, under interim head coach Donte Williams, continue their skid into a 4-6 record with a 62-33 thrashing from cross-town enemy UCLA, losing the Victory Bell in the largest loss in the series since USC's 50-point win 10 years prior. The team looks lost, and Mike Bohn’s tenure, which was supposed to bring stability and professionalism, is on thin ice from the LA faithful.
November 27, 2021. Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners lose in Stillwater against their bitter rival the Oklahoma State Cowboys by 4 points. The 9-point Sooner lead late in the 3rd had vanished and Riley had his first loss in Bedlam 4 years into his head coaching tenure. It appears that despite the successes the young coach has had in his young career thus far, he will not make it over the hump and achieve the National Championship dream that was so close just two years prior.
November 28, 2021. Fans across the country are stunned as a bombshell drops early in the morning, the headline being “Lincoln Riley named New Head Coach of USC”. Like a thief in the night, USC took the prodigal son of Oklahoma and made him theirs, the man who was going to bring back the glory of USC and make it a blueblood once again.
Even after only a few short months, with no games played yet under Riley, I believe that he is the perfect fit for the Trojans, and I guarantee that by the end of his reportedly $100 million deal, he will be raising the national championship that he and the Trojans have so desperately desired. The NCAA has given many schools the ability to compete again with outlets like NIL compensation and the Transfer Portal, and USC will be one of the, if not the biggest, beneficiaries of these rules.
After years of players being punished as a result of “improper benefits”, including USC’s own Reggie Bush being stripped of his Heisman and National Championships for a “gift”, NCAA athletes are finally able to be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). These rules have provided college athletes with the earning potential that they had been denied in the name of “amateurism”. For Lincoln, this means that he can leverage the might of LA’s and the USC alumni’s various connections in swaying recruits to commit to SC. The effects of the new NIL rules has already been seen at USC with former QB Kedon Slovis becoming a Klutch Sports athlete (the same agency as Lebron James) and current QB Caleb Williams signing multi-million dollar deals with a Beverly Hills equity fund, Fanatics, and Beats by Dre. Ever since the loss of scholarships that the school had as a a result of the Bush scandal, recruiting has been a difficult task, and this gives the school a perfect opportunity to rocket back into the top of national rankings for the signing classes.
However, Lincoln will not have to wait years for his recruiting classes to come to fruition as coaches in the past have done before him. The introduction of the transfer portal allows athletes who want out of a poor school fit, need a change of scenery, or simply want to come home to do so, to change schools with very few consequences. The ability to poach players who are unhappy or regret leaving home is very important for a school like USC. Southern California is a hotspot for recruits, and the loss of hometown players like Bryce Young and DJ Uiagalelei to schools in the SEC and ACC has left USC fans disgruntled. Lincoln now has the opportunity to lure these players back home, and he has done so already. The leading rusher in the PAC-12, Travis Dye, went to Oregon, despite living only a short drive away from USC in nearby Norco, CA. After this past season, Lincoln was able to pluck him from his biggest rival for PAC-12 champion this season and put him in the cardinal and gold. Lincoln was also able to bring his quarterback from his previous school, the aforementioned Caleb Williams, who was a very highly-touted high school prospect and had a very successful freshman campaign. These moves are surely just the first to come, and many more will follow through Lincoln’s future years.
My final reason for believing Lincoln Riley will bring a national championship to Los Angeles is that he’s been so close before. He had 2 straight College Football Playoff berths, 3 straight NFL quarterbacks, 4 straight conference championships, and 5 straight winning seasons. Simply put, the man is a great coach, and the advantages he gains from being in Los Angeles versus Norman, Oklahoma should give him the roster he needs to finally reach the mountaintop and lift up the National Championship.