USC football: When will Trojans become national champions again?

USC football, Reggie Bush
USC football, Reggie Bush / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The last time USC football won a National Championship, it was a great time.

It was during the 2004-2005 season. Matt Leinart had just won the Heisman Trophy, we had our star running back on his way to the Heisman next year, and we had just won our 22nd game in a row. It feels like forever ago, however, and Sporting News found that they now have the tenth-shortest National Championship drought in college football.

For most schools, that's just fine. For USC, we demand better performance.

After we arrived back on the national scene, we demanded a title soon. Instead, while we did get a Pac-12 Championship title and 11 wins the next year, the following four years were unacceptable. There were devastating injuries in 2018 and 2019, and there were unfair practices on how the Pac-12 Championship game was handled in 2020, but the fans still rightfully expect more.

When will USC football become National Champions again?

USC football will be on the National Championship contending radar soon. It likely won't happen this year, as while the Trojans did bring in a top four college football head coach in Lincoln Riley, he has quite the mess to clean up. He inherits a program rich with history and located in fertile recruiting grounds, but is still coming off of a four-win season last year.

While the team will be significantly better next year under Riley, I still can't expect more than a 9-3 year. It's not a done deal yet that Caleb Williams will be on his way to SC, so we need to temper our expectations. There are some who are predicting SC to be better than 9-3, and some even have them in the top five of their too-early polls.

It's understandable, as the prospects of Caleb and Mario Williams heading to SC to link back up with Riley aren't looking too shabby. Riley also has a lot of potential as someone who's already established himself as an elite coach and is only getting wiser and more experienced as the years go by.

I just don't have a ton of confidence that the defense will be fixed this season, and it certainly needs quite a bit of fixing. It was ninth in the Pac-12 for 2021 when it came to yards per game allowed.

Now, some of that is a bit misleading, as when your team's offense is running the air raid, the defense oftentimes has a tougher time keeping up at times if the offense is having quick possession after quick possession. It leads to the defense not having as much of a chance to catch their breath between drives. Still, however, the eye test showed us that the defense doesn't have all the pieces in place for us to have immediate success.

While it's possible, it's far less likely than the offense, which will surely be significantly improved under the best offensive mind in the country in Riley. Therefore, I don't think SC will realistically win this conference in 2022. While Oregon made a questionable head coaching hire and finished the season terribly, UO being down doesn't give SC a clear path to the conference.

Utah finished the season very well this year, and has a really good coach of their own in Kyle Whittingham. They are going to be tough for anyone in the Pac to beat, and there's another team in the North who is seen as a sleeper in Oregon State. SC gets them on the road this season, as well as Utah on the road.

However, Utah won't be able to recruit nearly as well as SC moving forward with Riley in the fold, as SC is showing recruits that they are back in business and eager to be the dominant power they used to be. SC won't be losing anybody to Utah, and I can say the same to any other Pac-12 school including Oregon. When USC is USC, no Pac-12 school even dared to TRY to take any recruits from them--west coast players or not.

With Mario Cristobal now in Miami, Riley is the clear best recruiter in the conference and he's at the spot where recruiting is easiest on the west. Therefore, Riley should be able to win the conference by Year 2, which would put him in Playoff conversation.

Give him a couple of years to continue building this program up, and I can't see many others being in the position we'll be in. When SC is contending for National Championships, there truly is nothing like it.

How many other schools can get any recruit in their entire region that they want, can get Hollywood stars regularly hanging around the program, can be located in the biggest media market that has a college football team (New York's closest team is located almost an hour away in New Jersey), and can even have Snoop Dogg chilling on the sidelines? The answer is simple: Nobody. SC is the only school that's been able to do what they have done when they have been at the top of the game, and they're trending that way with the tremendous hire of Riley.

After SC establishes themselves atop the conference (which will be by 2023 if you ask me), it will just be a matter of time before they take the chip.

They'll be in the conversation for it every year, but I think it happens while Malachi Nelson is here. I say it happens while Zachariah Branch is here. I have it happening while Makai Lemon is here.

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We already are in position to maybe finish the 2023 recruiting cycle as the best in the nation. Those guys will win us a title. I have us winning our next National Championship in the 2025-2026 season.