Oklahoma football: Brent Venables or Lincoln Riley? Is that really a question?

Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley talks on his headset in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley talks on his headset in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma football fans were angry when Lincoln Riley up and left. They’re still angry, not because he left but rather why and what he left.

As bad as it seemed at the time, there was actually plenty of good that came from Riley’s departure.

First of all, It brought Brent Venables back home. Unlike his predecessor, who OU fans now unaffectionately refer to simply by the name “Muleshoe, Venables never really abandoned the Sooners when he moved on to Clemson in 2012. Second, and perhaps best of all, Riley took defensive coordinator Alex Grinch with him to USC.

Riley’s wisdom in sticking with Grinch to command the Trojan defense was on full display on primetime TV on Saturday night as Notre Dame embarrassed undefeated and No. 10 USC 48-20.

Related Story. Lincoln Riley continues to make news for all the wrong reasons. light

There is every reason to believe that outside of the Notre Dame fan base, no one was rooting harder for an Irish victory over Riley and his USC team than Sooner fans. And I shouldn’t have to explain to you why. Not only did Notre Dame fans storm the field in droves in celebration after the victory, but they were also dancing in the streets in Norman.

Not a tear is being shed for Riley as his national championship aspirations for his new team begin to fade into the sunset. Grinch continues to be an albatross around Riley’s neck, yet he appears reluctant to part ways with him. Sooner fans should be grateful this is no longer their problem.

The loss to a very good Notre Dame team was USC’s first loss of the season, but the reality is the Trojans have been flirting with disaster. They had won their previous two games against average-at-best opponents by a combined nine points: 48-41 and 43-41.

USC could just as easily be 4-3 right now instead of 6-1.

The USC defense, which has looked much like the Oklahoma defense did the last few years Riley was in Norman, ranks 96th (among 131 FBS teams) in scoring defense, allowing 30.0 points per game, and 93rd in total defense, giving up nearly 400 yards per game to opposing offenses this season. Sound familiar?

The Trojans only allowed 301 yards of offense to Notre Dame on Saturday, but that was because reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams — remember him? — threw three interceptions, all of which resulted in short fields for the Irish and led to three Notre Dame touchdowns and 21 points.

This is a typical Lincoln Riley team: all offense and no defense. That is a formula that seemed to deliver championships in the Big 12 — six of them during Riley’s time as the Sooners’ head coach — and four College Football Playoff appearances. Riley’s playoff teams at Oklahoma never made it past the first game. The Sooners were able to score in all four national semifinal games. But they weren’t able to stop their opponent from scoring, giving up 37, 54, 45 and 63 points in their four trips to the CFP under Riley.

At the time Riley announced he was leaving OU, it was widely believed that he thought he would have a better chance of competing for championships in the Pac-12 than with Oklahoma in the SEC. Wonder what he thinks those chances will be now that USC will be competing in the Big Ten?

And just recently, he announced to reporters that one of the reasons he left the OU football program was because “I just couldn’t recruit at the level at Oklahoma to compete with Bama, Georgia, Clemson and OSU (Ohio State).”

What he meant to say was he couldn’t recruit top defensive talent. Venables is demonstrating that you can get top defensive prospects to come to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma, which did not play this weekend, and USC both were unbeaten with identical 6-0 records entering the weekend. Both teams ranked in the top five in scoring, averaging 51 (USC) and 45 (OU) points, respectively. The difference is the Sooners are allowing just 14 points on defense, tied for seventh best in the nation, while the Trojans’ 30 points allowed per game and No. 96 ranking in that important statistical category is what Oklahoma used to be but not what they are any longer on Venables’ watch.

This may not be the last time this season Sooner fans get to celebrate Lincoln Riley in defeat. In the coming weeks, USC will face No, 14 Utah, No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Oregon.

Here is what some others had to say about Riley and USC in the blowout loss to Notre Dame: