USC Football HC Lincoln Riley put on Watch List for first half heroics

Lincoln Riley, USC Football, USC Trojans
Lincoln Riley, USC Football, USC Trojans / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

USC Football hired Head Coach Lincoln Riley after they just had their worst year in program history in 2021. SC went 4-8. They sacrificed the season after starting 1-1 so that they could make sure they brought in an elite coach, and fired then-Head Coach Clay Helton after those first two games. They had what was tied for the No. 103 defense that season, allowing 31.8 points per game.

Offensively, they were still bad, ranking as tied for 65th in points per game at 28.7. Riley had a lot to fix. If he were to fix it all and put this team in national contention in just one year, he would be in the conversation for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award. Sure enough, halfway through the season, Riley has been added to the 2022 Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award Watch List:

Riley has the Trojans ranked in the top 10, with a 6-1 record. In fact, their only loss is a one-point loss on the road against a top 14 Utah team, in a notoriously tough place to play. Not to mention, it was an emotional night for them. They were honoring Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan that night. Those are the two Utah players who unfortunately passed away last year.

USC was going to be coming into a hostile environment in Salt Lake City, and it still took objectively awful Pac-12 officiating for the Utes to win the game by one point. The AP Poll voters even know it, as SC not only stayed three spots ahead of Utah in their poll after the loss, but they're four spots ahead now.

It goes to show that Lincoln Riley has orchestrated quite the turnaround for USC Football this season.

USC Football Head Coach Lincoln Riley has also taken the Trojan offense from that No. 65 slot and all the way into the top 15 where they're tied at the No. 12 spot. They've been scoring 40.4 points per game. Again, it's been night and day since the head coaching change.

Even on defense, the Trojans have been much improved. While they have been suspect overall, they still are much better in that they're giving up 22.14 points per game compared to their 31.8 mark last season. They're also tied for ninth in the country with 16 turnovers forced, and tied for second in the nation with 12 interceptions.

To already have two more wins than the team did last year when the season is only seven games young so far is remarkable. What he's done with this program cannot go unnoticed, and clearly isn't. Besides, look how bad his old team is doing.

Next. Game-by-game predictions for USC in 2022. dark

Oklahoma has had a brutal season so far, going 4-3 through these seven games in their first year without him. They finished No. 10 in the country last year when Riley was their head coach; the same ranking Riley now has with SC.