History says Lincoln Riley will probably be successful at Oklahoma

Author:
Publish date:

I was reading Dennis Dodd's "CFB Insider" column over at CBS Sports when it struck me: if history is our guide to understanding the future, it's a virtual guarantee Lincoln Riley will be successful at Oklahoma.

Thanks to our friends at Sport Source Analytics, Dodd listed every member of Riley's new peer group -- first time head coaches under the age of 35 hired since the turn of the century.

Let's roll down the list, with an evaluation of each hire.

Greg Schiano, Rutgers (hired in 2001 at age 34): Schiano's 68-67 record doesn't jump off the page, but that's due to what he inherited -- quite possibly the single most downtrodden BCS program at the time. Schiano needed five years to get the Scarlet Knights to a bowl game, but then reached the postseason in seven of his final eight years, including a 2006 campaign that saw Rutgers win 11 games, finish the year ranked No. 12 in both polls and Schiano win multiple national coach of the year awards.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (hired in 2006 at age 31): Fitzgerald has maximized Northwestern's program, with bowl trips in seven of his past nine seasons, peaking with a 10-win season that ended the Wildcats' 70-year bowl victory drought and the program's first top-20 ranking since Fitzgerald's playing days.

Lane Kiffin, Tennessee (hired in 2009 at age 33): This one gets an asterisk since Kiffin had already served as the Oakland Raiders' head coach and stayed only one season. Though he did post a 2-win bump from the 2008 season, it's hard to imagine Kiffin being successful in Knoxville over the long term.

Steve Sarkisian, Washington (hired in 2009 at age 34): The other of Pete Carroll's wunderkind assistants, Sarkisian inherited a Washington program that completely bottomed out under Tyrone Willingham. Though it can be argued the Sark tenure never lived up to its potential -- his Huskies never finished higher than third in the Pac-12 North -- his five years in Seattle served as the bridge between a winless 2008 campaign and the Pac-12 champion, College Football Playoff participant that took the field last fall.

Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky (hired in 2010 at age 34): Taggart left Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford to return to his alma mater, where he bounced from a 2-10 season in his debut to back-to-back 7-5 seasons. That success took Taggart to South Florida and, now, Oregon.

Matt Campbell, Toledo (hired in 2012 at age 32): Like Riley, Campbell was Toledo's offensive coordinator before his promotion before the 2012 Military Bowl. He led the Rockets to a 35-15 record with back-to-back MAC West championships before leaving for Iowa State after the 2015 season.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (hired in 2013 at age 33): A one time teammate of Riley, Kingsbury has gone 24-26 as head coach at his alma mater. The Red Raiders reached bowl games in 2013 and '15 and finished under .500 in 2014 and '16.

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (hired in 2013 at age 33): Fleck went 1-11 in his first season before ramping the Broncos up into eventually becoming a household story, going 8-5 in 2014 and '15, then cresting with an undefeated regular season, the program's first MAC championship and a landmark Cotton Bowl appearance. He accepted the Minnesota job in January.

Neal Brown, Troy (hired in 2015 at age 34): Brown suffered through a 4-8 debut before spring-boarding to a 10-3 mark with a bowl win in 2016.

Mike Norvell, Memphis (hired in 2016 at age 34): Norvell went 8-5 in his first season as the Tigers' head coach.

That's 10 coaches, and at least eight were or appear to be unequivocal successes.

True, none of above group took over a program such as Oklahoma, a historical top-5 program coming off of back-to-back Big 12 championships with the FBS single-season passing efficiency record-holder returning at quarterback, but the Sooners have their own successful pedigree for hiring head coaches: Bennie Owen (30), Bud Wilkinson (31), Barry Switzer (36) and Bob Stoops (39) were all made first-time head coaches by Oklahoma. Those four men combined to go 614-160-24 (.784) with 39 conference titles and seven national championships.

No pressure, Lincoln.