The University of Southern California has been a prominent program throughout the years but hasn’t performed to their expectations. It’s been over a decade since USC won its last national championship. Their last PAC-12 title was in 2017. With a program loaded with talent yearly the championship drought has been a surprise.
A Prominent Program Raising Eyebrows
The Men of Troy are coming back for their spot as a “top dog” in college football. Thanks to the transfer portal, USC was able to load up on talent. They brought in an offensive mastermind and showed the college football world what they’re capable of.
A new face in charge
After a few up-and-down years, Lincoln Riley was hired to revive USC football. He spent five years in Oklahoma before bringing his talents to the West Coast and didn’t come alone.
He brought weapons like Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison, and Travis Dye to Southern Cal to bring some juice. The question is can he lead USC to the promised land? In year one, he proved he was the right choice. The Trojans finished with an 11-3 record, competed for the PAC-12 Championship and Cotton Bowl, and had their first Heisman Trophy winner in 17 years.
With Riley at the helm, the program is headed in the right direction, especially if the goal is the College Football Playoff. At Oklahoma, he led the Sooners to three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances and coached two consecutive Heisman winners.
Offense vs. Defense
Offensive explosiveness was on full display for USC. The duo of Williams and Riley led a unit that ranked third in total offense and had the least turnovers among FBS teams (seven). Williams, who won the Heisman, had the best season of any USC quarterback that won the award. The offense is expected to take another leap in year two but the defense remains a question mark.
Although they forced 29 turnovers, defensive inconsistency shattered their CFP hopes. In their last two games, they saw double-digit leads vanish and finished the year ranked 103rd in scoring defense.
Ghost of Riley’s Past
Although Riley has a 1-3 record in the CFP, numbers can be misleading. In the CFP, the offense has answered the call. Averaging 41 PPG, the offense has been electric but the defense has struggled.
In the four CFP appearances, the defense is allowing 52 PPG. Multiple shots at the national title have been hindered by the defense but 2023 is an opportunity for Riley to get over the hump.
The Trojans come into the year favored to win the PAC-12, but their schedule isn’t a cakewalk. USC will face Utah, Washington, and UCLA in the Coliseum and have road trips to Oregon and Notre Dame. Utah, who defeated USC twice last year, will be the biggest challenge coming into the year. A sleeper matchup for the Trojans will be the Colorado Buffaloes.
Hype Around Next Year
In the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams is likely to be the No.1 pick. He will be the first USC player selected as No.1 since Carson Palmer in 2005. Riley can add the “Quarterback guru” to his list of accomplishments. This will be the third time in six years Riley has coached the No.1 pick.
Before going to the NFL, Williams could make history once again. If he wins the Heisman this season, it will be the first time in 48 years a player has won the award in back-to-back years. It would be the third time a school had a consecutive Heisman winner (Oklahoma ’17 & ’18, Alabama ’19 & ’20).
Expectations are high for the 2023 season and national championship aspirations are escalating. USC has the opportunity to win its 12th national championship and its last PAC-12 title before heading to the Big Ten in 2024.
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