Preview: Syracuse at USC
USC and Syracuse have met only twice before, with the teams last sharing a field in the 1990 Kick-off Classic. It was the Orange playing as an independent back then, before committing to a conference the following season. So in a year of firsts, we will get another. Just one week after the Trojans played in the first ever Pac 12 game, they will host Syracuse flying its conference banner, marking the first game ever to be played by USC against a Big East program.
Syracuse Orange (2-0)
National Rank: None
Last Week: Defeated Rhode Island 21-14
Defense: The Orange fielded a top-10 defense in 2010, and it was powered by the team’s ability to defend the pass. It has since lost both starting corners and the difference is evidenced in the national ranking through two games against considerably lesser opponents. Syracuse of 2011 has allowed opposing quarterbacks a passing average of 240 yards per game, after a season average of just 162 a year ago.
Redshirt Senior Kevyn Scott will appear at one corner position, after being nagged by injuries last year and playing in only six games. The other spot is manned by a sophomore rotation of Keyon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson. The Orange is also inexperienced and undersized at defensive tackle, where the most experienced player is 280 pound sophomore Jason Bromley. Sophomore Marquis Spruill is the only returning starter from the linebacker group of 2010.
Offense: The offensive numbers were nothing to boast last season. It finished with a national rank of 97th, with an overall scoring average of 22.2 points per game. Quarterback Ryan Nassib is off to a fairly decent start, which may also be a reflection of the team’s earliest opponents. The senior threw three touchdown passes without an interception in the opener, against a Wake Forest defense transitioning from the 4-3 to 3-4. He added three more, to go along with 318 yards, against FCS Rhode Island last week. A better measure will come on Saturday when he faces a speedy USC secondary while trying to avoid the pressure up front.
The greatest offensive struggle comes in the run game, where thousand yard rusher Delone Carter is now gone. His replacement, senior Antwon Bailey, has been slow off the block, accounting for a national rank of 107th in rushing for the Orange, at an average of just 78.5 yards per game.
USC Trojans (2-0)
National Rank: None
Last Week: Defeated Utah 23-14
Defense: The Trojan defense has done its part to protect its house. Season opponents are averaging just 15.5 point per game, and most important, have yet to score on final drives that would have drawn a win or tie for the visitors. The strength is in the front four, which has dominated opposing offensive lines and stifled the run. The unit is surrendering an average of just 75.5 rushing yards through two games, while disrupting quarterbacks for a pass efficiency rating of 107.6.
Offense: Quarterback Matt Barkley has completed 70 percent of his passes, while also throwing four touchdowns and a single interception in two games. The trend has been a hot start in each, before cooling after intermission. Favorite target, Robert Woods, begins week three tied at second in the nation for receptions per game (12.5) and is poised for another big outing against the inexperienced Orange secondary. Marc Tyler provided the running element for the Trojans last week, but just as it was for the first two, the depth chart indicates another running back by committee approach by Lane Kiffn on Saturday. USC’s current average is 393.5 yards and 21 points per game, which is good enough for a 3-0 start. But there is an obvious second half deficiency to be corrected if the Trojans are to stop living on the edge.
Analysis: USC and Syracuse are similar in that neither has been able to shed their opponent to win with ease. The Orange came back from fifteen points down in the second half to defeat Wake Forest in overtime, and then found itself tied with Rhode Island in the third, before one final score to seal the victory. The Trojans have yet to trail in a game, but has twice found itself on the ropes ducking a fourth-round knockout punch. That may all change this week, as USC should easily handle Syracuse at home. The Trojans have the edge in every facet of the game, and a multitude of fresh faces on a rebuilding defense can only lead to easy pickings for one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks,
X-Factor, Syracuse defensive line– The Orange front four will be the difference between the team hanging around for four quarters and a secondary hung out early to watch its team fall hopelessly behind. Barkley’s 70 percent completion rate isn’t achieved on his own. Much of that can be credited to an offensive line that manages to keep him clean. If the visitor can’t chase Barkley from the pocket and make him uncomfortable, it may spend the halftime break searching airline schedules for the earliest flight home.
All Time Series: USC leads 2-0
Last Meeting: USC 34, Syracuse 16 (East Rutherford, NJ)
- Including games against UCLA, Syracuse is 4-2 all-time in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
- Syracuse Athletic Director, Daryl Gross, is the former Associate Athletic Director at Southern California under Mike Garrett, and is credited with the hiring of Pete Carroll in 2001
- Mike Garrett (1965) was the second African American to win the Heisman Trophy, following Syracuse RB Ernie Davis (1961), who was the first.
- Syracuse is 14-11 Overall versus the former Pac 10.