USC Trojans

Will USC win the Pac-12 in Lincoln Riley's first season?

May 26

During Lincoln Riley's tenure at Oklahoma, his teams annually featured an elite offense that was often paired with a mediocre defense.

Since then, he's moved on to USC and the Pac-12, which could be an ideal environment for his style.

Joel Klatt and Colin Cowherd discussed their expectations for Riley's Trojans in his first season as head coach.

"I'm excited for USC. I think that they've got a great team. I think at some point in this first season of his, they'll be ranked inside the top 10," Klatt said. "I don't think they're going to finish there, but at some point in this season, I think they're going to be ranked inside the top 10."

Joel Klatt predicts Lincoln Riley, USC will rank inside Top 10

Joel Klatt stops by The Herd to tell Colin Cowherd what his expectations are for Lincoln Riley and the USC Trojans.

USC does have a few tests they'll face this season, especially in the back half of their schedule with Utah, UCLA and Notre Dame.

"I don't think they have the capability to beat Notre Dame right now," Cowherd said. "And I think UCLA is way better than people think. They are a nine or 10-win team potentially. I think they [USC] will go 9-3 this season. 

"I think Utah beats them, UCLA beats them, Notre Dame kind of pushes them around, even at the Coliseum."

Klatt added: "Notre Dame's too tough at the line of scrimmage right now."

USC's offense figures to be explosive, nonetheless.

Caleb Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma, completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns versus four interceptions in his freshman season. The dual-threat quarterback also rushed 70 times for 442 yards (5.6 average) and six touchdowns. Williams did all this in about seven-and-a-half games, after taking over for Spencer Rattler while leading a historic comeback against Texas in the Red River Showdown.

The Trojans have added a slew of transfers on both sides of the ball, including Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh and wideout Mario Williams from Oklahoma. Addison, who transferred just last week, caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. Williams caught 35 balls for 380 yards (10.9 average) and four touchdowns. He wasn't targeted much in his freshman season, but expectations surrounding the former four-star prospect are high at USC.

"One thing about Lincoln Riley, it doesn't matter how his defense plays, he will find a way to have success," Klatt said. "He's done that for a number of years. He did it with some really poor defenses at Oklahoma, and this is not a conference that's as deep or as good as what those Big 12 Conferences were over the last four, five, or six years."

Both Klatt and Cowherd believe, despite the issues that might arise defensively, Riley's upgraded offense will be enough for USC to compete for the Pac-12 title. 

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