The aftermath of the Cotton Bowl was undeniably rough for USC and its fans. Who wouldn’t be upset when a team blows a 15-point lead to Tulane in the final four and a half minutes? Of course the loss stung. It’s a New Year’s Six bowl game USC failed to win, when it frankly should have closed the deal.
Predictably, Oklahoma fans reveled in USC’s late collapse. There’s nothing wrong with that. All’s fair in love, war, and football games.
Yet, there was one strange element to the Oklahoma fan reaction to the Cotton Bowl (also to the Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Utah). A specific mantra which flowed from some OU fans as part of the Cotton Bowl aftermath was the larger idea that “We told you about Lincoln Riley! We warned you this was going to happen!”
Technically, narrowly, sure, that’s absolutely true: Oklahoma fans did tell us Lincoln Riley didn’t have the defensive side of the ball figured out, that Alex Grinch didn’t maximize defensive resources, that a lot of shootout-style games would occur under Riley’s watch, and that substantial leads would be blown. Yes, OU fans warned us.
Yes, of course. USC fans were aware this was likely to happen in Year 1.
USC fans were expecting the defense to be bad. USC fans were expecting the offense to have to carry this team. We were all very, very surprised USC held Oregon State and Washington State to 14 points. We couldn’t believe those two games unfolded the way they did. We expected USC to have to score at least 40 points to win games, which is what happened against Arizona and Cal and UCLA.
The whole “We told you Riley had these flaws!” refrain from some Oklahoma fans suggests or implies that USC fans either didn’t know what was coming, or have been saddled with a fatally flawed coach and are in a world of hurt.
That’s not the reality of the situation.
First, USC fans knew what was coming.
Second, with the Trojans improving by seven wins from 2021 and having a great chance to win 11 or more games in 2023, we’re not exactly suffering over here. We know the defense needs to improve, but the Clay Helton era is behind us. USC is nationally relevant again. The Trojans are going to win 11 games in a season (at minimum) on a regular basis for as long as Riley is the coach.
It’s pretty good over here. Ian Hest produced our latest podcast, in which we discussed these and other Oklahoma-flavored topics: