Note: This is a direct response to Meg Lane’s “4 Reasons Syracuse Has A Prayer Against USC” post.
USC is looking to keep its five-game winning streak alive against the Syracuse Orange this Saturday. After a recent drop in the polls this week from No. 1 to No. 2, the Trojans are out for blood and want to prove they can compete with the likes of Alabama.
What’s at stake? For USC, this is a must-win game on its road to the National Championship. For Syracuse, this is a gut-check game that the Orange need to avoid falling to 0-2.
Sorry Syracuse, but keep praying; you don’t have a chance against the best team in the nation. Here’s why:
Captain Matt Barkley is the heart and soul of this USC team. He sets the tone for the offense with his leadership and passion. He didn’t come back to reach a bowl game, he came back to compete for a championship.
Yes, Ryan Nassib, Syracuse’s quarterback, had a break out performance in last week’s game, completing 45-of-66 for 482 yards. Yes, he threw for over 100 yards more than Matt Barkley did against Hawaii. But no, there isn’t a person in the nation that would pick Nassib over Barkley to quarterback a team.
Despite Nassib’s huge performance, SU didn’t even win its game. And we’re not even mentioning the clear advantage SoCal’s run game has over Syracuse’s.
USC has options that Syracuse and most other teams dream of. The Trojan offense is deadly, as seen by its first play of the season: Barkley completed a pass to Lee, who shook his defender and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. USC has arguably the best two receivers in college football on one team: Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. The magnetic hands of these guys combined with their speed and athleticism make them a lethal combo. Woods and Lee can shift gears in less than a second to dodge and avoid defenders; it’s astonishing.
In addition to the speed outside, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal effectively pound the rock up the middle. Redd’s USC debut proved promising as he averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored a touchdown. McNeal’s speed brings a good change of pace. And USC has another offensive weapon in kicker Andre Heidari. Heidari was third in the nation, hitting 88% of his field goal attempts last season. So you may want to negate that “advantage” you have on special teams.
An Improving Defense
In the Hawaii game, there were moments that the Trojan’s defense looked shaky. But defensive end Wes Horton, middle linebacker Lamar Dawson, and cornerback Torin Harris could make their 2012 season debuts against Syracuse to add some experience to the defense. In contrast, the Orange lack experience on the offensive line, so USC’s defensive ends should have no problem getting to Nassib.
Syracuse only gave up one sack to Northwestern last week, but the Wildcats don’t have the athleticism of USC on defense. The Trojans will be ready for the Orange’s no-huddle plays; in fact, it’s more likely that the Trojans will confuse the Orange offense with some line stunts or twists. Throw in the leadership and experience of All-American safety T.J. McDonald, and it’s a sure bet that SU’s offense won’t have the same success it did last week.
The showdown between the Trojans and Orange will be held at MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey. The stadium, located in East Rutherford, may be closer in proximity to Syracuse, but it has the feel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC’s home field.
MetLife Stadium seats 82,566; similarly the Coliseum seats 93,607. The Carrier Dome, Syracuse’s current football stadium, seats a mere 46,262. Syracuse may have a few more shirts in the stands, but when it comes to performing in front of a big crowd, USC can deliver. So not only are the Orange playing the No. 2 team in the country, their supposed “home field advantage” is most likely the opposite.