Preview: USC at Syracuse
East Rutherford, NJ
September 8, 2012
TV: ESPN2, ABC
USC and Syracuse will shift venues to complete a home-and-home series. The Trojans dominated the Orange 38-17 in Los Angeles a year ago, and Doug Marrone hopes his program learned from that experience and can bring about a change in result on Saturday.
“I think our players understand the situation. They know who we’re playing. They know the stage we’re playing them on.”—Doug Marrone
USC wasn’t the only trouble spot for the Orange last year. The team finished poorly down the stretch. With the opening loss to Northwestern, the program enters the weekend riding a 6-game losing streak.
Despite its opening win against Hawaii, USC took a step back in the polls. Falling one place in the Associated Press, the Trojans are now the consensus No. 2, after also rising one position in the Coaches’ poll. It erases an opportunity for the Orange to knock off a No. 1 ranked opponent, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1984. But Syracuse will still be attempting to achieve a program first, as it stands 0-10 all time versus opponents ranked second in the polls.
Syracuse Orange (0-1)
National Rank: none
Last week: Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
The Orange installed a no-huddle attack that worked to near perfection against its last opponent. No player in the nation generated more offense in the opening week than QB Ryan Nassib, who accounted for 500 of the team’s 596 yards in the new system. The senior established a new school-record with 44 completions versus Northwestern, targeting Marcus Sales on the majority.
Senior WR Alec Lemon did not play in the opener and remains questionable against USC. Lemon set a school-record for single season receptions in 2011 (68), but remained sidelined with a leg injury last Saturday. In his absence, Sales recorded a career-high 11 receptions, which amounted to a game high 117 yards.
Returning to the lineup this week is tight end David Stevens, who was one of Nassib’s favorite targets in the spring. His addition is crucial to an offense that will be looking to expose cracks in the Trojan armor.
The Syracuse offensive line allowed just one sack in 65 pass attempts last week, while also powering the ground game to 126 yards, with Prince-Tyler Gulley leading the charge at an average of 7.1 yards per carry. This was accomplished without All-Big East left tackle Justin Pugh, who remains injured and without a timetable for his return.
A Syracuse defense that recorded five sacks and ten tackles for loss in the opener would also surrender 337 yards and 42 points. It’s a unit that is bigger and faster up front, spearheaded by senior DT Deon Goggins, a JUCO transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College. For all the success the unit had up front, it was a secondary that failed to contain. Northwestern quarterbacks finished with a pass efficiency rating of 155.67, and would complete 6 of 7 pass attempts on the 75-yard game-winning drive.
USC Trojans (1-0)
National rank: 2 (AP), 2 (Coaches’)
Last week: USC 49, Hawaii 10
The Trojan offense was highlighted by Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods in week one, which came as a surprise to no one. Lee finished with 10 receptions for 197 yards against a Hawaii team that had no answer, while Woods added a pair of scoring catches.
What the Trojans didn’t do exceptionally well was run the ball, amassing just 81 total yards as a team. Newcomer Silas Redd led all ball carriers with 56 yards on nine rushes, as he carried the load for much of the game. The Trojans walk into Met Life Stadium thinner in the backfield than a week ago, with RB D.J. Morgan now sidelined 3-4 weeks after minor surgery.
The Trojan defense was spectacular in the opener, recording 5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 3 takeaways. Morgan Breslin eased concerns at defensive end, playing lights out in place of the injured Devon Kennard. USC also received great play from LB Anthony Sarao, who was inserted in place of Lamar Dawson. With Dawson out, Hayes Pullard was moved to middle linebacker, where he returned a Sean Schroeder pass 27 yards for a touchdown last weekend.
USC linebackers are quick from sideline-to-sideline and supported by an experienced secondary. LB Dion Bailey led all Trojans with 7 tackles in the season opener.
Analysis: Scott Shafer defenses are designed to make opponents one-dimensional, and he had little success in doing so against USC last year. The Trojans attacked the Orange with balance, which is reflected in the lopsided loss. The second attempt looks more promising, seeing that USC had little ground production against Hawaii. Syracuse serves a more formidable defensive front, and the play of Deon Goggins will key success or failure.
The fast pace of the Syracuse no-huddle will attack the Trojan defensive depth. The coaches used a steady rotation of linemen in the first week, and the Orange scheme will allow fewer opportunities to substitute. The stamina of the Trojans will be measured by games end, as some personnel will play more snaps than intended, if the Orange can keep control the pace.
X-Factor- Special Teams: Marqise Lee currently leads the nation in all-purpose running, due in part to his production on special teams last week. Nickell Robey also ranks 15th in punt return average, and the pair will now face a unit that performed miserably in its first game. Northwestern fielded 2 Syracuse punts and returned them for 134 yards in the victory. If USC can share the same success, it invites a wide-eyed Barkley onto a shorter field, which can only spell disaster for the home team.
All-Time Series: USC leads 3-0
Streak: USC has won 3 straight
Last Meeting: USC 38, Syracuse 17 (Los Angeles)
Line: USC -26
- USC will be the highest ranked opponent Syracuse has faced since losing 59-0 to No. 1 Miami in 2001
- Syracuse is 0-10 all-time vs teams ranked No. 2 in the AP and Coaches’ poll
- Syracuse is 15-12 all-time vs current members of the Pac 12 conference
- The Orange has lost 4 consecutive games to Pac 12 opponents, with the last victory coming against Arizona in 1990.
- Syracuse Offensive Coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, is the son of Former USC Head Coach Paul Hackett
- Syracuse Athletic Director, Daryl Gross, served as assistant Athletic Director under Mike Garrett at USC, and was credited in bringing Pete Carroll to Los Angeles.
- Syracuse DT Deon Goggins is the half-brother of Trojan CB Kevon Seymour and cousin of Trojan Tony Burnett.
- Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib currently leads the nation in total offense
- MetLife Stadium serves as a homecoming for USC LB Anthony Sarao, who prepped at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon New Jersey.
- Syracuse enters the weekend riding a 6-game losing streak