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Paul Finebaum: Lincoln Riley's only path back is as a coordinator

On3 imageby:Dan Morrison07/08/24


Lincoln Riley is going into his third season at USC, looking to bounce back from a frustrating 2023 season. As he does that, he’ll need to oversee the transition into the Big Ten and away from the team’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

All of that is a difficult task and one that SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum doesn’t seem to believe he’s capable of doing. In fact, if things went wrong and Riley was let go by USC, Finebaum explained on McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning that he thinks the only way back for him would be as a coordinator.

“I don’t know how you get through that [buyout] except through some negotiated settlement,” Paul Finebaum said. “But I think his only way back is as a coordinator.”

Lincoln Riley made a name for himself as a coordinator and quickly became one of the best offensive minds in the country. He then became the Oklahoma head coach in 2017. While there, his offenses continued to thrive and his defenses struggled while going 55-10 in five seasons with four conference titles.

Then, in 2022, Riley left for USC. Again, he’s found success on offense while his teams struggle on defense. With that, in two seasons, he has a record of 19-8 and Finebaum believes that the end could be near there too. At that point, Riley will have to find a way to reset.

“It doesn’t take much, by the way, in the NFL. You become a coordinator and have 15 minutes of success and you can get a bunch of NFL head coaching jobs. I think Lincoln Riley is very smart, but I think he would be better if indeed he does get fired, and by the way, I would have no difficulty as the athletic director at Southern Cal getting rid of him. Frankly, he should’ve been on thin ice last year. It’s just a matter of whether he can stop the bleeding or not,” Finebaum said.

“If you look at his roster right now, he’s not a factor in the Big Ten, and that league, I think, will eat him up.”

Paul Finebaum predicts Lincoln Riley will be out at USC at the end of 2024 season

Paul Finebaum clearly has his doubts about USC under Lincoln Riley. With that, he also predicted this would be the last for Riley in Los Angeles.

“It’s not a matter of wishing him bad luck out there – that’s already happening. And if you look at the reality, the number of players that are bailing on Lincoln Riley in Southern California is startling,” Finebaum said.

“I’ve always thought he was a good coach, especially on the offensive side. But I don’t think anybody today views him in that same realm. And quite frankly, I think he’ll be out of Southern Cal at the end of the season.”