Lincoln Riley says USC can't celebrate 6-0 start, must stay focused on improvement
Lincoln Riley is the first USC football coach to start his tenure 6-0 since Jess Hill in 1951.
The Trojans are finding a tremendous amount of confidence in the knowledge they’ve won games multiple ways this season. They’ve been incredible on offense. They’ve been stout on defense. They won on an off night in Corvallis. They beat a good Washington State team at home. Riley calls the 6-0 start an opportunity, though.
An opportunity for more. He’s keeping the focus on improvement.
“There’ll be several 6-0 teams that finish really well, some that finish okay, and some that don’t finish very good,” said Riley. “So it’s great, but it is just a start. It’s not a guarantee of anything.”
USC currently leads the country in sacks. The Trojans have the best turnover margin of any FBS team. They have stars all over the field on the offensive side of the ball and budding stars on the defensive side.
In a lot of ways, Riley’s experience is going to be crucial throughout the next few weeks. He has a team that, for the most part, hasn’t been in this spot before. Riley has taken teams to the College Football Playoff. In games played after October, Riley is 22-5 as a head coach (with three of the losses coming in the CFP). He was unbeaten in the month of November as a head coach until last season.
He knows you have to be continuously improving. You can’t get comfortable with what you’ve already done.
“The target moves,” he said. “What’s good enough Week 1 is not good enough Week 3, which is not good enough Week 7, which is not good enough Week 9. Other (teams) that you play, you’ve got to expect their best and expect that they’re going to be getting better.”
USC gets Utah this weekend at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. The seventh-ranked Trojans have a looming date with unbeaten and 11th-ranked UCLA on Nov. 19. They’ll welcome Notre Dame to the L.A. Coliseum the week after.
If things go according to plan, they’ll have a Pac-12 title game standing between them and the Playoff.
“It’ll be a challenging second half of the season, but this is when it gets the most fun,” Riley said. “This is what you do it for. You put yourself in a great position, now it’s time to go accelerate and be our best.”