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Out of the Pot, into the Frying Pan

Riley ran from brutality of the SEC only to crash into Big 10
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Real estate agents in Southern California must be blowing up Lincoln Riley's phone right now.

The current USC head coach owns prime historical real estate on the Palo Verdes Peninsula, but that $17 million house might be up for sale soon after the recent announcement that the Trojans are headed for the Big 10.

Almost immediately after Oklahoma announced it intended to move into the SEC with neighboring Arkansas and the rest of the college football misfits who make up the SEC, Riley snuck his way out the back door for the safe, calm, pressure free waters of the Pac-12.

Lincoln Riley reacts during a press conference to introduce Riley as Southern California Trojans head coach at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Lincoln Riley reacts during a press conference to introduce Riley as Southern California Trojans head coach at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Unfortunately for Riley, before he even coached his first game, he was given notice that he has two years to play around in the kiddie pool of anonymity and indifference out west before he has to jump back into the college football spotlight against the likes of Ohio St., Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State.

No more midnight games while fans in the SEC, ACC and Big 10 sleep off long days of jumping up and down, screaming, throwing condiment bottles, eating smoked meats and surely only consuming family friendly beverages in the spirit of love and friendship toward the other team.

Instead, other than when they play UCLA, USC will be on viewable television, most likely at 9 a.m. on the West Coast, with half their season taking place in front of packed houses of color coordinated rabid fans.

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs out of the tackle by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Malik Harrison (39) in the first half of the game at Ohio Stadium.

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs out of the tackle by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Malik Harrison (39) in the first half of the game at Ohio Stadium.

As Riley scans his roster looking for someone with the moxie of Baker Mayfield, he will realize he doesn't have someone with the mental make-up needed to take down the Buckeyes and then slam a flag into the ground at midfield.

Guys with that kind of bravado don't stick around to play in front of the apathetic fans who make up college fanbases in California. Just ask "The Swag of Stillwater" Roc Riggio, who abandoned the Golden State to mockingly prance around the bases at Oklahoma State before riding stick horses and wearing over-molded cowboy hats.

Oklahoma State's Roc Riggio celebrates following a 10-5 win in the NCAA Stillwater Regionals over the Missouri State Bears.

Oklahoma State's Roc Riggio celebrates after a regional win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. 

To win at the highest level of the Big 10, it takes a confidence and an aura that hasn't been present at USC since the very beginning of this century.

Time has not been kind to the Trojans since. They went from being perceived as a pro team in both performance and personality that happens to compete in college football, to a team much of America forgot plays football.

Hiring Riley is the only moment of significance USC has had since Vince Young buried the Trojan dynasty for good under the turf of the Rose Bowl over 16 years ago.

So which back door could Riley slip into once his two years of bliss in the Pac-12 end? 

Florida State and North Carolina might make viable options that would allow him the comfort of an ACC that is slowly fading into college football obscurity. Perhaps by then Dabo Swinney will have bailed on a flagging Clemson program to take over at Alabama once Nick Saban decides he's fed up with the current college football climate.

Nick Saban-CFP Press Conference

Alabama head coach Nick Saban jokes with the media during a 2021 press conference.

However, with college football becoming the equivalent of two ships escaping the atmosphere before the planet begins to explode behind them, those schools won't provide Riley safety either. 

The Carolina market is one that will be pursued by both the SEC and the Big 10, and Florida State and Clemson are both major brands that have been rumored to be destined for the SEC for decades. There will soon be nowhere left to hide that provides the one or two big game scenarios Riley enjoyed in the Big 12 and now the Pac-12. 

At some point, Riley will have to run the college football gauntlet or take on the role Urban Meyer once filled behind an analyst's desk. 

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Urban Meyer during game coverage for Fox Sports at the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium.

Urban Meyer during game coverage for Fox Sports at the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium.

The era of two-pony conferences is coming to an end, and with it, places coaches can hide and build inflated records. 

Over the next few years, as the Big 10 and SEC poach the final few desirable athletic programs, legacies will be built solely on greatness, and not on the back of weak conference cycles. It's not something every coach is cut out for or can stomach.

In the case of Riley, we will see. Running from Alabama and Georgia only to run face first into Ohio State and Michigan will test who he is and how he is remembered. 

Right now, in the SEC footprint at least, he's simply remembered as the man who turned tail and ran.


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