USC is an early national title favorite in college football

Lincoln Riley won four Big 12 titles during his tenure with Oklahoma before leaving for USC

Lincoln Riley won four Big 12 titles during his tenure with Oklahoma before leaving for USC
Photo: Getty Images

USC football is back.

Is it too premature?

The Trojans finished 4-8 last season, and 22-21 in their last four campaigns. They endured one of the worst four-year stretches in school history and haven’t won a bowling game since the 2017 Rose Bowl. They also never qualified for a College Football Playoff.

But I stand by it: USC football is back.

After firing longtime head coach Clay Helton and making it clear that interim head coach Donte Williams was not the permanent answer, USC’s coaching search seemed doomed. All of its top candidates seemed to choose other schools, and the Trojans were set for another season of mediocrity.

Then, one fateful night in late November, everything changed.

The team somehow, seemingly out of nowhere, snatched Lincoln Riley from his throne in Norman, Oklahoma and straight into the lights of Los Angeles.

Riley was thrilled to bring relevance back to the West Coast and, in a short time, he did just that.

It wasn’t long before Riley knocked down rookies and landed the best transfers in the class this year, including two of the top three and three of the top nine.

Caleb Williams, the former Oklahoma 5-star star under Riley, was the most prized possession of the Class of 2022. He took over Spencer Rattler’s job last season and led the Sooners to an Alamo Bowl win over the Oregon Ducks. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for six more in 11 games.

Jordan Addison, winner of last year’s Biletnikoff Award as the best wide receiver in college football, was the best non-quarterback to switch schools. He had 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, and picked the Trojans over the Texas Longhorns.

Then there was 5-star cornerback Domani Jackson, who retired from the Trojans in early November amid uncertainty surrounding his position as head coach. But, barely a month later, in mid-December, he announced he was coming back to LA, choosing the Trojans over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Have you ever heard of them?

They were the big names, but far from the only guys who moved up to Cardinal and Gold this offseason. Top transfers and rookies on both sides of the ball included running backs Raleek Brown and Travis Dye, wide receivers Brenden Rice and Mario Williams, and defensive backs Zion Branch, Fabian Ross and Latrell McCutchin. The 20 (and counting) transfers that USC has won have been the premier class in all of college football and set this team up for immediate and future dominance (even before their move to the Big Ten).

It’s hard to predict how long it will take for all of USC’s new plays to gel under their new leader.

It could be a week. It could be a year. They may already be ready.

But one thing is certain.

In a short time, USC completely revamped its roster and restored its relevance in the world of college football, which it had lacked for four years.

Bettors also took note.

It shouldn’t take long for the Trojans to compete for the Rose Bowls. They could be in the College Football Playoff conversation as early as this season.

Either way, it’s safe to say that USC football is relevant again.

And by the way, the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship is set to be played on Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Talk about a way to reintroduce yourself to the world of college football.

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