USC’s Lincoln Riley has gone from October loss to CFP before

In each of his first three seasons as Oklahoma coach, Lincoln Riley went into October with an impeccable record and a top-10 finish…only to unexpectedly lose a game.

In 2017, it was the state of Iowa that upset the third-place finisher Sooners. A year later, Texas toppled No. 7 Oklahoma from the throne with a game-winning field goal. A year later, in October, Riley’s Sooners were upended again, this time by Kansas State.

Each of those three losses seemed to end any hope of making the College Football Playoffs. But in all three cases, Riley’s team didn’t lose another game for the remainder of the regular season. All three ended up in the playoffs.

It’s no wonder, then, that no one, least of all Riley, is panicking after the Trojans suffered their first loss of the season in Utah last Saturday as USC enters its bye week.

“You’re tested in a different way when you lose one, especially the way this one was played,” Riley said. “Everything I’ve seen from this team so far leads me to believe that we will handle it in a way that will bring us closer together and make us even better. We have to do it. Feeling that and thinking that you are capable is one thing. Going and doing it is another.”

A soft schedule from the bye certainly helps. USC’s next three opponents (Arizona, California and Colorado) are a combined 7-12. After heading to Tucson for their next matchup, the Trojans won’t have to leave Los Angeles for the remainder of the regular season.

Those favorable circumstances won’t matter much if USC can’t find answers to its problems on defense this week, where the Trojans were thrashed for 562 yards on Saturday, the fifth-most yards they have conceded in a game in the last decade.

“I don’t think we have to give up ship or anything,” said linebacker Shane Lee. “I just think we need to tighten the hatches and push down and really dig deeper into the details and focus on that.”

Poor tackling is a particularly relevant concern. According to Pro Football Focus, USC missed 18 tackles against Utah, eight more than any other game this season. Lee, playing through a hand injury, missed five.

Riley said USC wouldn’t hold back from attacking in practice this week, despite taking byes with both sides of the ball.

“There’s no balance,” Riley said. “We have to clean up”

He’s cleaned up similar messes before. The question now, as USC faces initial adversity, is whether that team could embark on a similar path after their own mid-October blip.

“We don’t have time to sulk,” Lee said. “You need to pick yourself up and get back to work. It’s all about this. There are other games to play. It’s not the end of the season, with the best will in the world.”

Addison, Gentry OK

His top wideout left with a leg injury. His lead inside linebacker was carried off the field with an injured ankle. Both had to be banished to crutches in last Saturday’s defeat.

But Jordan Addison and Eric Gentry appear to have escaped with no serious injuries and are “on the go by the day,” Riley said Tuesday. The news was a huge sigh of relief for USC, who would have struggled to replace either player.

Addison leads USC in receptions (39), gaining yards (585) and receiving touchdowns (7), while Gentry leads the Trojans in tackles (52). Whether either will be ready when USC returns from their reunion remains to be seen, however. USC’s Lincoln Riley has gone from October loss to CFP before

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