Lincoln Riley, Kyle Whittingham have traded places the past seven years

Go back to 2017. Lincoln Riley, well before he came to USC, made the College Football Playoff at Oklahoma. That year, he coached Baker Mayfield to the Heisman Trophy, and came within an eyelash (overtime in the playoff semifinals) of competing in the national championship game. Kyle Whittingham and Utah had not yet made a single appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2017. They were trying to figure out how to crack the code in Salt Lake City.

Now, in 2024, everything is different. Whittingham and Utah have beaten Riley and USC three times in the past two seasons. Though the two schools — and hence, the two coaches — won’t meet this season with Utah in the Big 12 and USC in the Big Ten, the Riley-Whittingham dynamic has completely flipped.

Riley is not one of the hot coaches in college football right now. Whittingham is the “it” guy in the sport, a skyrocketing star. College Sports Wire’s top-12 coaching rankings have a “right now” point of emphasis, and Whittingham is No. 2 on the big board.

Here’s College Sports Wire on Whittingham:

“When it comes to consistency, Kyle Whittingham is the perfect example. He joined the Utah Utes in 1996 as an assistant and worked his way up to head coach. He took over in 2005 and is the second-longest tenured head coach. No one seems to do more with less. Whittingham has won two Pac-12 titles over the last three years beating very talented USC Trojans and Oregon Ducks rosters to earn those titles. The Utes should be in good shape to win the Big 12 in the upcoming season.”

Riley has a lot of work to do in the attempt to change how he and USC are perceived.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire