USC coach Lincoln Riley wasted no time turning around the USC football program, guiding the Trojans from missing a bowl game in 2021 to the Pac-12 Championship Game in his first season at the helm. But as he looks forward to his second season in Los Angeles, USC's last year as a Pac-12 member before joining the Big Ten in 2024, Riley has his sights set high.
Appearing on the All Things Covered podcast with Bryant McFadden and Patrick Peterson, Riley was asked about his expectations heading into Year 2 and the future of this Trojans program.
"You can only do so much in Year 1, and I feel like we did a lot," Riley said. "I keep telling people, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We're not even good yet. I think we'll have a chance to get good here pretty quick, which will be a lot of fun. I don't want to put any limitations on what we can accomplish."
Despite flipping the roster in one year, USC improved from 4-8 to 11-3 and a No. 12 postseason finish in the Ap Top 25 in Riley's first season. Quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy as the Trojans finished with their best record since 2017. If not for an injury to Williams in the Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Utah, the Trojans might have earned a trip to the College Football Playoff.
"It's gone from teaching the guys what winning looks like, what it feels like, to convincing them they can do it because they've been down for so long," Riley said. "There's a psychological hurdle that you've got to get over. I think now we know we can win."
Riley has won 10 games or played in a New Year's Six bowl in every season of his head-coaching career. Riley is one of only four coaches to lead a team to the College Football Playoff at least three times, along with Georgia's Kirby Smart, Alabama's Nick Saban and Clemson's Dabo Swinney.
However, the path is about to get more complicated as the Trojans prepare to enter the Big Ten in July 2024. Riley acknowledged that there is work being done behind the scenes to prepare for the shift to a schedule that will send the Trojans across the country every week. Every high school recruit the Trojans are evaluating will be members of the Big Ten.
Despite the impending move, Riley remains focused on the upcoming 2023 squad, the last one with Heisman-winning Williams leading the way.
"As you guys know, you can't do this at a high level with this current team if you're looking too far ahead," Riley said. "Behind the scenes, we'll do the work and get this team ready to go into the Big Ten. But on the forefront, we have a big opportunity in front of us and we want to make the most of it."