Lincoln Riley quickly turned the USC Trojans into one of the best offensive teams in college football.
But his defensive acumen continues to be called into question.
The Trojans’ woeful defense took center stage Friday night in front of a prime time national television audience in the Pac-12 football championship game. And it was ugly.
USC blew a 17-3 first-quarter lead, was outscored 44-10 over the final three quarters and missed an astonishing 24 tackles in its 47-24 loss to Utah.
The reaction across the sports media landscape has been consistent in its criticism of Riley’s defensive struggles dating back to his tenure at Oklahoma. And Sooners fans are piling on.
The collapse was reminiscent of Riley’s Oklahoma teams in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Sooners made the College Football Playoff all three seasons, but gave up 54, 45 and 63 points in blowout semifinal losses.
In 2017 the Sooners blew a 31-17 halftime lead to Georgia in the CFP semifinal. In 2018, Riley’s Sooners fell behind 28-0 to Alabama in the CFP semifinal. And in 2019 they were completely exposed by LSU, falling behind 49-14 at halftime before losing 63-28.
Here’s a sampling of what the sports world is saying about Lincoln Riley and USC’s defensive collapse: