The USC Trojans wrapped up their national search for a new football coach this past weekend, and in a stunning turn of events, they managed to land one of the game's most popular names. Mission accomplished.
Inside the world famous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was officially introduced as USC's new leader on Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the school announced its hiring. After five seasons in the Big 12, Riley will now run a Pac-12 program that is hellbent on rebuilding a powerhouse reputation.
"Oklahoma State is better suited to enter the SEC than Oklahoma is right now, because of the way it's constructed and built," former Sooners running back and current Fox Sports analyst Spencer Tillman told The Zach Gelb Show on Monday. "Yes, Lincoln is an innovator. But when you get to the speed of the SEC defenses, the top-flight facilities, all those things that set Oklahoma apart in the Big 12, that doesn't exist in a clear advantage like it did in the Pac-12.
"I call the Big 12 a cul-de-sac because once Oklahoma got outside of it, faced staunch defenses, they were always surprised by what they found in the end and disappointed, in some cases... There were a lot of good things Lincoln did, but I think Lincoln felt like he exhausted everything he could possibly achieve in this conference. And I think it was a perfect time for him to leave, just like when Bob [Stoops] left five years ago."
Riley, who turned 38 in September, achieved an impressive level of success in five seasons with the Sooners. He went 55-10 during his tenure, winning four Big 12 titles and earning four College Football Playoff appearances. Riley also developed two Heisman-winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018), who were selected as top overall picks in the NFL draft.
USC's search for a new head coach began in mid-September, when athletic director Mike Bohn announced the firing of Clay Helton. Helton's tenure with the Trojans was underwhelming. Although he led the program to a Rose Bowl win in 2017, he was unable to take advantage of the Pac-12's downturn across six seasons. Overall, USC won just one conference title under Helton's watch, and failed to reach the CFP.
Oklahoma (10-2), which entered last week ranked No. 10 in the nation, lost to rival No. 7 Oklahoma State (11-1) on Saturday, eliminating them from Big 12 title contention. The Sooners had appeared in six straight conference title games.
The entire college football conversation between Tillman and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.