Lincoln Riley nearly lost, but few could watch the USC drama

Imagine you are an Oklahoma Sooners fan. Imagine the heartbreak of losing at home to a Kansas State team that lost the previous week to a Tulane team that fell to Southern Mississippi on Saturday. Then imagine USC — led by your acrimonious ex Lincoln Riley — losing to Oregon State in the fourth quarter and feverishly looking for the remote.

Scroll, scroll, scroll, get to the sports channels of the 300’s or 600’s or 1800’s, and yet where is that traitor Riley? Hey there’s Brigham Young-Wyoming (no thanks) but where are the seventh trojans and their transfer portal allstars?

You are… nowhere? That couldn’t be right — another trifle for a despised Sooners fan base who can’t believe Riley would find moving his young family to Southern California appealing to break out of Bob Stoops’ shadow and do his own thing the first time?

USC wide receiver Tahj Washington is brought down by Oregon State defenseman Jaydon Grant.

USC wide receiver Tahj Washington is brought down by Oregon State defenseman Jaydon Grant in the second half of Saturday.

(Amanda Loman/Associated Press)

But no, that scenario was real, because a matchup featuring a top-10 team and two undefeated teams was relegated to the Pac-12 network, which is popular in California, let alone Oklahoma, due to the conference’s inability to get things right achieve is hardly seen in cable and satellite distribution businesses in the last decade.

Of course this is nothing new. What’s new is that USC, coached by Lincoln Freaking Riley and quarterback Caleb Freaking Williams, came close to losing to a group of well-trained three-star recruits in Corvallis, Ore., and hundreds of thousands of fans across the country were forced to back down Update Twitter or your game tracker of choice to keep up.

I had friends from LA to the Midwest who texted me Saturday night asking for help finding the game. Bad news for you: Yes, I paid extra for the sports package with the Pac-12 network, but I don’t remember my password. We’re sorry!

“Now the game’s cast is broken,” said a friend. “Does Oregon State have a chance?”

“It’s kind of crazy you can’t watch a USC game on TV these days,” wrote another. “I would really like to watch! … The situation is amusingly absurd. I’m just glad I’m not a Pac-12 fan. Say what you want about the Big Ten, but you always get the games.”

The college football landscape burned all day. No. 25 Miami lost 45-31 to Middle Tennessee State and it wasn’t that close. No. 22 Texas, which some thought had become legitimate under Steve Sarkisian after almost beating Alabama in week two, lost 37-34 in overtime at Texas Tech. But the worst loss of the day came at Norman, where Oklahoma No. 6 fell 41-34 to Kansas State.

For Sooners fans — and to a lesser extent, the miserable collective of college football fans who don’t support the Georgia Bulldogs but still sign up for the games — choking on USC and Lincoln Riley was a huge pick-me-up for the crowd that goes to church early on Sunday morning.

Look, part of the appeal of USC ever being “back” — whatever that means — is that the entire country can look on in expectation when the Trojans could tragically fall upon their swords. Those of us who got a chance to watch Saturday night know the truth: These Trojans may be entertaining, inspirational, annoying, and most importantly, relevant, but they’re not “back” as USC fans would define it, which is at the national championship level. All the more reason for the rest of the country to tune in and revel when things are going haywire.

We’ll have to wait 20 more regular-season games before USC is back, at least from a national standpoint.

College football in 2022 is the search for the best meme from the most tormented fan base. If USC had lost Saturday night, tech-savvy people would have been available to capture the perfect meme.

Luckily, a relieved Trojans fan meme wasn’t going to go viral after a 17-14 escape from Corvallis anyway.

Oklahoma fans just missed out on more heartbreak, which was certainly good for their souls.

Lincoln Riley’s brain and Caleb Williams’ body looked out of sync all night, but Alex Grinch’s defense — a punching bag at Sooner State in recent years — saved the Trojans a chance to make their first appearance in the college football playoffs. It made for great television.

Two years from now, when USC finds itself in a terrible situation as a Big Ten member, these despised Okies will be able to see it in real time and pray for Riley’s compensation.

Whether the Trojans catch on or not, USC will indeed be back.

Oregon issues a statement

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix looks for a receiver against Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Saturday.

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix looks for a receiver against Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Saturday.

(Young Kwak/Associated Press)

As I reported when the televised pairings were announced almost two weeks ago on Saturday, USC-Oregon State landed on the Pac-12 network because Fox and ESPN, who get to vote each week before the conference, later USC games wanted to guarantee season.

The Trojans have to play three times on the Pac-12 network and ticked that box twice after Saturday.

Fox picked No. 15 Oregon in Saturday’s Washington state game and was rewarded with a thriller. The Upstart Cougars – watch out for USC on October 8th! — led the Ducks 34-22 late in the fourth quarter before Oregon scored 22 points in 2 minutes and 48 seconds to steal the game 44-41.

ESPN was far less fortunate with its “After Dark” selection of Utah, which visited Arizona State and played its first game without the fired Herm Edwards as head coach. The Utes won 34-13.

As week five begins, it feels like Utah, USC, Oregon and Washington are the favorites for the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas (which luckily airs on Fox and not the league network). However, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State are all capable of crashing the party.

Portal Redemption

Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez celebrates a touchdown against Oklahoma

Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez celebrates a touchdown against Oklahoma Saturday in Norman, Okla.

(Nate Billings/Associated Press)

There are many fair reviews of the NCAA transfer portal, but it’s definitely good for competitive balance.

And it’s good for many kids who have put a lot of sweat into one school, but for some reason have hit a roadblock and could excel in another situation.

Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez, a Nebraska transfer, and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, an Auburn transfer, were the face of the portal on Saturday.

Martinez rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 234 yards and a score to lead the Wildcats to victory in Norman. Do you think he would do that with sad Nebraska this season? The Cornhuskers, who went 3-9 last year, were happy to replace him with a pair of transfer quarterbacks.

A former five-star recruit, Nix threw for a career-high 428 yards and three touchdowns to help the Ducks get out of Pullman alive.

The real McCoy

Tennessee wide receiver Bru McCoy (15) lines up and runs onto the field

Tennessee receiver Bru McCoy (15) is thriving this season after joining from USC.

(John Amis/Associated Press)

Tennessee beat Florida for the first time since 2016, improving 4-0 from the previous year and preparing for a climb into the top 10.

The Volunteers couldn’t have done it without Bru McCoy, the former Santa Ana Mater Dei star who went to USC with high expectations but was kept off the field due to a series of injuries and a USC Title IX investigation into an off-field incident affecting his Ex girlfriend.

On Saturday, McCoy caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. He’s another Portal success story and will have the chance to be part of a special season in Knoxville.

Future Big Ten Rankings

1 State of Ohio


3 Penn State (up 1)

4 USC (minus 1)


6 UCLA (up to 3)

7 Maryland (up to 1)

8Wisconsin (down 2)

9 Iowa (up 3)

10 Purdue

11 Illinois (up 3)

12 Michigan State (down 5)

13 Rutgers (down 2)

14 Indiana (down 1)

15 Northwest

16 Nebraska Lincoln Riley nearly lost, but few could watch the USC drama

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