Lincoln Riley is ready but what about his defense?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The USC Football Team will have one of the country's best offenses, but will the Trojan's defense do their part to help the team win a championship?

With the 2023 Pac-12 Media Day in the books, the curtain call for the USC Trojans in the Conference of Champions begins. After a fantastic offensive outburst in 2022, will the Trojan defense do its part in 2023?

Outside of Northwestern (and for the worst reasons), a team may not have had a more wild 18 months in the FBS. 

The Trojans thrust themselves back into the national spotlight, from the shocking hiring of Lincoln Riley to the massive season of Caleb Williams, then to the colossal Big-10 announcement. 

A return to prominence goes hand in hand, with the growth in expectations and the growth in the target on USC’s back. 

I think back to a quote from Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell. When asked about the upcoming week 18 match-up vs. the rival Packers, he said, “Either we’re playing to get in, or we’re playing to be spoiler, and that’s it.” In a conference that notoriously cannibalizes itself, you best believe that’ll be the mantra of every team that finds themselves across the line of scrimmage against the Trojans. 

Now the aforementioned is something we all know, but the Trojan team and staff members understand. Three of the calmest people at PAC-12 media day were new-comer Mason Cobb, Heisman Winner Caleb Williams, and Head Coach Lincoln Riley, the latter who gently emphasized throughout his entire media day Q&A that significant changes on the defense needed to be, and were, made. 

With the reigning Heisman Winner and presumed #1 pick manning the ship, it’s a first-time playoff berth or bust for the Trojans. But while their QB1 is the nation’s top player and face of college football, the defense is under the most pressure. USC’s offense was a top-5 offense in the country, while the defense ranked outside the top-75.

Giving up a combined 90 points in the TWO losses vs. Pac-12 champions, the Utah Utes, and another 46 to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl, is not necessarily the recipe of a team that can be the last man standing in January, let alone be the champs of the Pac-12. 

Despite Riley’s stoic confidence on the mic today, one must wonder if he thinks a whopping six possible transfer starters are enough to turn things around. 

Of all the title contenders, and make no mistake, USC certainly is one; they may be the only one whose most significant question mark is the man running the defense; the yet-to-be-named-here DC, Alex Grinch. If USC is to achieve its destiny during its Pac-12 swan song, the world’s weight falls on Alex Grinch’s shoulders.