Can Lincoln Riley Match Pete Carroll's Standard At USC?

Can Lincoln Riley Match Pete Carroll's Standard At USC?
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

It has been a fall to remember for USC Trojans fans, with Year One of the Lincoln Riley era getting off to a smashing start.  

The Trojans enter their yearly showdown with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh at 10-1, after surviving a 60-minute fistfight against the rival UCLA Bruins last Saturday, in a 48-45 thriller.

Now, Riley and company must come back to the LA Coliseum one final time to host the 18th-ranked Fighting Irish at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time Saturday, in a game that ABC will broadcast nationally. And would also be a moneymaker across California sports betting

With a win on Saturday, the Trojans will be in the driver’s seat to make the program’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff, with a Pac-12 Title Game showdown against either the Utah Utes, Oregon Ducks, or Washington Huskies standing in their way.  

Oddsmakers at BetMGM Sportsbook list Riley’s bunch at +2500 to win the 2023 CFP title, coming in sixth — behind defending champs Georgia (-145), Ohio State (+250), Michigan (+1000), TCU (+1400), and Clemson (+2000).  

Meanwhile, USC starting QB Caleb Williams' Heisman Trophy odds are second best on BetMGM Sportsbook’s board at +125, ranking behind Ohio State QB CJ Stroud on the list (at -135).  

Williams could join a prestigious list of USC Heisman winners, alongside Reggie Bush (2005, though later vacated), Matt Leinart (2004), Carson Palmer (2002), Marcus Allen (1981), Charles White (1979), O.J. Simpson (1968), and Mike Garrett (1965), with a strong showing against Notre Dame this weekend.

How Lincoln Riley Stacks Up vs. The GOAT crunched the numbers on how long it’d take Riley to one-up the best USC coach in the modern era, Pete Carroll.  

Carroll was undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in college football during the early aughts, winning .836 of his games (going 91-13 at the helm, after going just 6-6 in his debut season in 2001).  

Carroll famously guided the Trojans to an AP national title in 2003 and a BCS championship over Oklahoma in 2004.  

His USC heyday concluded when Vince Young scampered into the end zone and slashed the Trojans dynasty to the ground in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Riley obviously has a long way to go to match Carroll’s exploits in L.A., but actually has a better winning percentage (.909) so far than Carroll’s .836 total percentage (or even the .875 percentage the Trojans racked up between 2002 and 2009).  

To reach Carroll’s 97 wins in L.A., Riley would have to have 10.875 seasons of eight-win football, 9.667 seasons of nine-win football, or 8.7 seasons of 10-win ball.  

Even if Riley is able to guide the Trojans back to 11-plus win seasons each fall, he’d need to average 11 wins a year for 7.91 seasons to get to 97 victories in the City of Angels.  

If Riley doesn’t lose another game (assuming USC plays a 15-game season each fall, conference title and CFP semifinal and final included), he’d need to win each contest over the next 6.47 seasons to match Carroll’s USC win total.  

That figure could change, depending on how the CFP handles its expanded format to 12 teams, either in 2024 or 2026 — making Riley’s math to reach 97 wins easier if USC is able to play 16 (or even 17) games a year in perpetuity.  

For now, Trojans fans are likely thrilled to even be back in the CFP conversation, after winning fewer games (nine) in 2020 and 2021 than Riley’s first USC squad has notched this fall (10).

What Lincoln Riley Must Do to Match Pete Carroll’s USC Win Total

Pete Carroll: 97-19 (.836) [Went 91-13 (.875) after going 6-6 in 1st year in 2001].  

Lincoln Riley: 10-1 (.909) in 1st year at USC.

Riley needs 87 wins to match Carroll’s win total. That averages out to 10.875 seasons of 8-win football, 9.6667 seasons of 9-win football, 8.7 seasons of 10-win football, 7.91 seasons of 11-win football, 7.25 seasons of 12-win football, 6.69 seasons of 13-win football, and 6.21 seasons of 14-win football.  

Stay close to this site for breakdowns like this as well as California Sportsbook promo codes once the state clears the path to legislation.



Christopher Boan
Reporter / Journalist

Christopher Boan is the lead writer at, specializing in sports betting issues in the western United States. He's covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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