Lincoln Riley was hands-down the best hire of the college football coaching cycle this past offseason, and USC football is stoked to have landed their first elite head football coach since the Pete Carroll days. With great power, however, can come great pressure.
In fact, Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports even has Riley on his list of "Seven college football coaches under the most pressure entering the 2022 season." While pressure typically sounds daunting, Sallee may not necessarily mean it in that context. Read his explanation for why he's on the list:
"Many have tried, but few have succeeded to lead USC back to the glory days of Pete Carroll in the 2000s. Riley has stepped up to the plate after further establishing Oklahoma as a national power, and has hit the transfer portal in a big way by luring several players -- including former Sooners starting quarterback Caleb Williams -- to Los Angeles. His up-tempo, spread-based, run-focused offense will be a big selling point with recruits in southern California, which means that College Football Playoff appearances -- yes, plural -- should come in the not-too-distant future. What's more, it's not like the Trojans have to run the gauntlet in the Pac-12. "- Barrett Sallee, CBS Sports
Lincoln Riley seems to be on this list due to how his prowess as a coach immediately lifts USC football's expectations.
While Sallee's claim about Lincoln Riley may seem a bit skeptical at first, his expectations for USC football are not terribly off-base, and those expectations are what he's basing the pressure on.
He referenced how dominant of a coach Riley has already shown he is, so therefore the expectations are high for his performance--just like they were in Oklahoma. He talked about how impressive of a roster-builder Riley has proven to be with his notable transfer portal moves this offseason.
While Sallee is wrong in that Riley isn't under the most pressure coming into 2022 specifically, he is correct that "College Football Playoff appearances--yes, plural--should come in the not-too-distant future."
Therefore, there is a bit of long-term pressure on Riley to live up to the expectations that blueblood programs like USC always strive for. Also, Riley coaching against the Pac-12 is naturally going to sound like a cake walk for Sallee or any other national writer.
Other than Kyle Whittingham, there is not a single coach in the conference that's even in the same stratosphere as the great Riley. The college football world watched Carroll run all over the conference (and every other conference), the last time SC had a top-tier coach.
Therefore, Riley will naturally be expected to lead SC to be a dominant power in the Pac. The best part, however, is that Riley again has earned this pressure. He's proven just how special of a coach he is in the past, and has already gotten off to a terrific start when it comes to revamping the roster. After all, Sallee himself pointed out that being on this list is not a bad thing.
"As Georgia coach Kirby Smart says, 'pressure is a privilege,' wrote Sallee before he dove into the list.