USC football fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The Clay Helton era is over, and the Trojans have moved on to a better and brighter side of college football with Lincoln Riley. Despite a tough late-game loss to the Utah Utes, the Trojans stand at second in the Pac-12 at 5-1, a game behind Oregon, who is undefeated through five games. UCLA is still hot on USC’s tail with a 4-1 record and an impending Nov. 19 matchup that could decide the fate of the 2022 Pac-12 championship.
Here are three reasons why the Trojans will come out of the Pac-12 victorious this year.
1. Lincoln Riley
The Trojans signed head coach Lincoln Riley to a hefty $110 million contract, but the benefits did not stop there for the former Oklahoma Sooner. Not only did USC buy out Riley’s home in Oklahoma for $500,000 over asking, but they also bought Riley a $6 million home in Los Angeles, and allowed Riley and his family unlimited access to a private jet.
As wild as that sounds, the crazier part is Lincoln Riley is worth every penny of that deal. He has already transformed the USC football program — a 5-1 Pac-12 record in his first season in Southern California is an extremely impressive feat. USC has dealt with injuries to key players, but Riley’s ability to have backups prepared for the big moments has been key in steadying the ship for the Trojans. Riley is a top-tier head coach with championship pedigree and is USC’s future.
2. Superstar Transfers
Getting Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison, and Travis Dye in the transfer portal completely changed the outlook of USC’s offense overnight. It starts with Caleb Williams, who is going to be a starting quarterback in the pros one day. Williams has the poise in big moments that college quarterbacks often lack.
A contender for the Heisman Trophy this year, it always feel like Williams is in control, with the ability to escape the pocket at lightning while also possessing unique arm talent, both on the run and from the pocket. His rapport with Lincoln Riley has also been the ultimate factor — Williams knows how Riley wants to call the game and trusts his head coach to not put him in danger of big hits.
Travis Dye is the unsung hero of USC’s offense. While the offensive line has held up well this year, Dye has been making plays out of nothing, and having a running back who can get your team an extra five yards after contact changes the game completely. Dye is the first Trojan running back to have a rushing touchdown in seven straight games since 2016.
Jordan Addison is a sure-fire first- or second-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The wideout has been dealing with a leg injury, but he went through a full practice Tuesday and could play in USC’s homecoming football game against Cal this week.
3. Strength of Schedule
The Trojans will face Cal and Colorado before the matchup against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Both Cal and Colorado have not had much to write home about this season, hovering near the bottom of the Pac-12 with 1-4 records. Meanwhile, UCLA will face an Arizona State team that could surprise the Bruins, as well as a 1-4 Arizona squad. Both teams should win their two matchups before one of the best USC-UCLA college football rivalry games of recent memory, but USC’s opponents are definitely less trouble, giving the Trojans momentum heading into the Rose Bowl.
As for Oregon, the Ducks will face Colorado and Washington before hosting Utah and then going on the road to Corvallis for a rivalry game against Oregon State. That will not be an easy close to the season, so there could be losses on the way. The Utes have Arizona, Standford, Oregon, and Colorado to close the year.