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Lincoln Riley and USC Just Shifted the College Football Landscape

Ryan Phillips
Texas Tech v Oklahoma
Texas Tech v Oklahoma / Brian Bahr/GettyImages
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USC actually did it.

After years of cycling through coaches looking for the next big thing, the Trojans have finally hit the home run they've been swinging for since Pete Carroll took his talents to Seattle in 2010. Somehow, USC pulled Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma and he's poised to build the Trojans into a juggernaut again.

The 38-year-old Riley is one of the best coaches in college football and potentially its best offensive mind. In his five seasons at Oklahoma, he posted a record of 55-10, and went 37-7 in the Big 12. He won four Big 12 titles and reached the College Football Playoff three times. He's also a monster on the recruiting trail, with the ability to pull kids from all over the country -- including a significant number from California. He appeared set to dominate at Oklahoma for at least the next decade. Instead, he's heading west to restore USC to glory.

The fact that USC was able to reel in Riley is simply stunning. Tons of credit should go to athletic director Mike Bohn and his No. 2 Brandon Sosna for catching such a big fish. Just hours after Riley made it clear he wasn't taking the LSU job, he's off to LA.

USC has been in the wilderness for a decade. An undoubtedly elite program with the money, setting, facilities and fertile recruiting grounds to be a powerhouse has been reduced to rubble by awful coaching. Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Steve Sarkisian and Clay Helton have all failed to live up to the standards expected of them. Riley is the kind of instant credibility hire that could restore things in short order.

There are obvious advantages for Riley moving to USC. He gets to live in LA and likely become more than just a local celebrity. USC is also an incredible academic institution, which should help when recruiting, and the tradition the Trojans boast is matched by few in college football. And, of course, Riley's path to the College Football Playoff will be much easier in the Pac-12 than he'd face at Oklahoma -- especially with the school's impending move to the SEC. Then there's the money, which will be life-changing and he almost certainly couldn't pass up.

While we don't have the terms of a deal yet, Riley will undoubtedly be one of the highest-paid head coaches in all of football, college or pro. The financial commitment from USC should raise eyebrows, because it means the university is serious about becoming football power again. Riley isn't stupid, he wouldn't have left Oklahoma without assurances to that effect.

This hire should send shockwaves through college football. The land of earthquakes just produced a big one. USC is ready to play again and they'll have the best young coach in college football leading the way.

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