Expectations for USC football in 2022: Can Lincoln Riley lead Trojans to Pac-12 title, CFP in debut season?

USC made one of the splashiest college football coaching hires in recent history last November, poaching Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma after he posted a 55-10 mark in five seasons. After such a universally lauded hire on the heels of a 4-8 season, hype is radiating out of Los Angeles as a long-storied program seeks to reclaim a place of national prominence on the gridiron. 

Since the inception of the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2011, the Trojans have hoisted the trophy just once, and only once in the past decade has USC finished in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 poll. The program didn’t just need a new coach after Clay Helton’s mediocre run on the sideline; it needed a resuscitation in order to remain relevant in college football’s rapidly evolving landscape.

On the heels four Big 12 titles in five seasons and three College Football Playoff appearances, Riley has quickly made the Trojans a relevant talking point again. By bringing rising sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams with him from Oklahoma after a standout freshman season, USC already has one of the sport’s most recognizable stars in the fold. Williams is just one of several potential impact transfers coming from all over the country to play for the revamped Trojans.

The significant haul of incoming talent along with some quality holdovers should make improving on last season’s 4-8 record simple, but how high can the Trojans rise in Riley’s first season? With the Pac-12 struggling for national relevance, the Trojans are already generating buzz as a contender.

So with the expectations sky high in L.A. with the arrival of Riley, the CBS Sports college football experts each assess the USC situation and give their takes on what the Trojans might accomplish in 2022.

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