Lincoln Riley cherishes tough second-half slate after going through cupcake schedule

USC head coach Lincoln Riley has to be feeling great about his No. 10-ranked Trojans.

They’re 6-0 and boast a top-five offense in yards per game (523.3) and the top-scoring offense in college football (51.8 points per game). He also boasts the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Caleb Williams.

Yes, things have gone great for USC so far, but this season has really just begun for the Trojans. After six games against unranked opponents, USC now enters arguably one of the toughest stretches in college football.

Should USC make it out of this stretch undefeated or even with one loss, there’s a great chance bigger things are on the horizon for this team. It’s not going to be easy, though, but that’s a challenge Riley thinks his team is looking forward to.

“We’re halfway through, win-loss record we’ve put ourselves in the best position you possibly could be with everything in front of us. And now it’s time to go seize it, now it’s time to go play your best ball, it’s time to really rise, and I think we sense the opportunity and it’s obviously gonna be a fun ride here man it really is,” Riley recently said (h/t On3). 

“It’s a great second half to the schedule, a lot of really good football teams, a lot of really good games here coming up obviously starting with off with the rivalry game here on the road that we’re very excited to go play,” Riley continued. 

The stretch starts off this Saturday evening with a primetime battle on the road against No. 21 Notre Dame. That game is followed by a clash with No. 16 Utah — which beat Riley’s team twice last season.

A potential trap game against Cal is sandwiched in between Notre Dame and Utah and a final stretch that includes No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Oregon and No. 18 UCLA.

Talk about a tough stretch of games. After not facing one ranked opponent in 2023, five of USC’s next six opponents are in the Top 25. 

It’s fitting that in the Pac-12’s potential last season, the conference of champions will boast several big-time matchups, and USC will be right at the heart of it all. 

“If you’re a competitor this is what you love, man, like the second half of the year right in the middle of the hunt, it’s a perfect spot to be in,” Riley said.

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