Pac-12 power rankings: USC’s hiring of Lincoln Riley is genius

USC’s last few coaching hires have been costly to not just the state of its football program, but the Pac-12 conference as a whole. That’s why it was such a shock on Sunday afternoon to see that the Trojans had lured Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. It was a big time move that Southern California has not made over the last 12 years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

Riley’s success with the Sooners has heavily been built on his pilfering of the west coast’s , particularly southern California, recruiting grounds. His preference for west coast recruits is part of the talent drain that has been effecting all Pac-12 programs over the last four or so years. By bringing him to USC, the Trojans are bringing in a guy that has connections with the local high schools and can shore up the weakness he helped create — along with USC’s inconsistent play over the last decade — in the former power’s recruiting pipe lines.

This will be a huge boon for the Trojans as their talent level should get back to where it was during the Carroll years. The talented quarterbacks in California should be extremely intrigued by Riley’s offensive play calling, his history of developing talent on the offensive side of the ball, and his history of getting his programs into the college football playoff are all draws.

The bottom line is that hiring him was an absolute no brainer for USC. And I’m completely and utterly flabbergasted that the university’s leadership actually made such a logical move in its head coaching search. With the early signing period coming up, it’ll be interesting to see if Riley can make any noise on the recruiting trail or if we’ll have to wait until April.


1) Utah Utes

With the Pac-12 South title wrapped up, it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise if the Utes had struggled against Colorado on Black Friday. While the final spread was only 15 points it easily could have been by a larger margin if Kyle Whittingham and company had been interested in running up the score. Utah wasn’t, and they move into the Pac-12 title game with an 8-1 conference record and at 9-3 overall.

2) Oregon Ducks

Oregon took a 24-3 lead into halftime and held off a frenetic comeback attempt by the Beavers in the fourth quarter to lock up the Pac-12 North with a 38-29 win at home. The final margin of victory doesn’t reflect how dominant the Ducks were at points in this game, and how it took three Oregon State touchdowns in the last 10 minutes of the game to make it look respectable.

3) Washington State Cougars

The monkey is off the collective WSU back as the Cougars picked up their first win in the Apple Cup since 2012 and their first win at Husky Stadium since 2007. It was an absolutely dominating performance that led to this beautiful troll job from offensive coordinator Brian Smith.

4) Arizona State Sun Devils

A 17 point third quarter secured ASU’s fifth Territorial Cup and its eighth win of the season. The 23 point margin wasn’t anywhere near accurate enough to reflect the outright domination Sparky inflicted on its instate rival. With Herm Edward’s coming back next year, and the NCAA recruiting investigation still on going, it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in Tempe going forward.


5) Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State was so damn close to coming back in the fourth quarter, but the Beavers couldn’t pull it off. The fact that the Beavers have been rebuilt steadily by Jonathan Smith — an alum — has helped make it feel like this has real sticking power for the program. Which is why the Smith extension makes a ton of sense, especially with the new football facility they’ll be bringing online in the next few years.

6) UCLA Bruins

Holy hell Bruins. The offense kept churning and the defense caused enough havoc to keep California off the board in three of the four quarters. Chip Kelley’s eighth win of the season probably has UCLA locked into the brand new version of the Las Vegas bowl which should be a sight to see.

7) Colorado Buffaloes

Man, what a hard season for the Buffs. It doesn’t speak a lot of hope about the program’s future with Karl Dorrell at the helm that there was no consistency from week-to-week on the offensive side of the ball. The defense looked solid at times, with up and down performances, but it still looks like it’s going to be a rocky future up in Boulder.

8) California Golden Bears

The offensive woes for Cal doomed them against its branch campus. For Justin Wilcox, if he stays in Berkeley, Calif., than he needs to completely and utterly clean out the offensive staff.


9) Washington Huskies

The winning streak against Washington State ended in spectacular fashion. Sam Huard continues the family’s proud tradition of throwing interceptions in the Apple Cup in his first start — four interceptions that counted, plus a two point conversion. Next up for Washington is its coaching search.

10) Stanford Cardinal

Notre Dame flattened Stanford, it’s time for some deep soul searching Palo Alto.

11) Arizona Wildcats

A forgettable season ended in forgettable fashion. This includes an Arizona player pushing around a facility worker for ASU.

12) USC Trojans

One more game USC, and then the Lincoln Riley era begins earnestly. The COVID make-up game against Cal will probably take place next weekend even though it should probably just be canceled since nothing but pride is on the line.

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