June 17, 2024

Lincoln Riley seeking a win in Holiday Bowl to end USC’s losing skid

USC Trojans Football

USC Coach Lincoln Riley congratulates his players after a play in the fourth quarter against Colorado Saturday September 30, 2023 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

It’s no mystery that the Trojans have been this year’s top underachievers approaching the Holiday Bowl for many reasons.

After all, USC started out the season No. 6 in the AP Poll, had the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Caleb Williams, and was on everyone’s short list to make the College Football Playoffs. However, after a 6-0 start, the Trojans crumbled down the stretch, and lost five of their final six games of the regular season, including three-straight.

Not to mention USC fell completely out of the rankings at the end of October and never resurfaced. Coach Lincoln Riley took the shoulder of the blame for the Trojans’ shortcomings. USC fans felt Riley was stubborn, and didn’t part ways with Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch until the season was already in shambles. Losing to crosstown rival UCLA at home on Senior Day was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Being 7-5 in year two is a far cry from being 11-2 around this time last season. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise why so many fans have checked out. Williams has declared for the NFL Draft, as well as leading rusher MarShawn Lloyd and wideout Brenden Rice.

Regardless of the matter, Riley has to piece together what he has available, to try and salvage the Trojans’ season. It doesn’t help that USC hasn’t played a game in nearly a month and a half. Redshirt sophomore Miller Moss will get the start at quarterback. So the fans should be rallying behind him, and expecting some rust from the offense.

Louisville (10-3) has lost two-straight games, and will be hungry for a win against USC tonight. The two head coaches matching wits will be intriguing, considering Riley is a quarterback guru, and Jeff Brohm has one of the brightest offensive minds in today’s game.

There’s no denying that the Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the country. It’s hard to argue against that when Louisville’s defense is 16th nationally in yards allowed, and 12th against the run. Riley will have an opportunity to go against the ACC runner-ups, and get valuable experience for his younger players.

The USC fans will be watching with their arms crossed though. Everyone will be anticipating the worst, and hoping for the best with Riley’s defense. The unit literally has nowhere to go, but up. USC lost its’ last appearance in the Holiday Bowl back in 2019. A win for USC in San Diego will generate positive momentum heading into the offseason for Riley. He needs a promising performance from his squad on both sides of the ball.

The Trojans should have the home field advantage, with Petco Park being a two hour drive from the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s vital that Riley makes the most out of the spotlight, and change the narrative on his downward spiraling campaign. Most importantly, the Big Ten will be paying close attention. Although that adds pressure, it should be more than enough motivation for Riley to give the conference a taste of what it’ll be facing in 2024.