Lincoln Riley and USC share Heisman Trophy frustrations, but that soon could change

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley benched quarterback Spencer Rattler, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, during an Oct. 9 game against Texas. Riley is now the coach at USC and Rattler is in the transfer portal. (Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

Saturday was supposed to be Lincoln Riley’s night once again at New York’s famed Downtown Athletic Club, the cameras continually panning the audience to lock in on the West Texan who had made the big city feel like home each year on the second weekend of December.

It seemed preordained that Spencer Rattler would follow in the footsteps of Oklahoma quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in taking home the Heisman Trophy under Riley’s tutelage. So the oddsmakers named Rattler, the top quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class who showed promise in 2020 as the Sooners’ starter, the Heisman favorite entering his redshirt sophomore season in Norman.

But, by halftime of the Texas game Oct. 9, Riley unthinkably sent Rattler to the bench because of his ineffectiveness — or was it Riley’s own struggle over a season and a half to unlock the young talent’s greatness that sent him there?

As we enter Heisman Saturday, Rattler is in the transfer portal, looking for a fresh start. And you can bet that Riley, now the head coach at USC, won’t be sitting around watching the ceremony moping about what is probably his biggest letdown as a coach. Rather, he’ll be voraciously working to fill out the Trojans’ 2022 recruiting class before Wednesday’s early signing period so that Riley’s first quarterback protege at USC — whomever that may be — will have plenty of skill around him.

USC fans will bring their own frustrations into Saturday night. If they’re inclined to watch the ceremony, they may want to pour a little extra bourbon into their eggnog as Southern…

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