USC’s balanced attack poses problems for Syracuse

Two undefeated teams clash when the Syracuse Orange travel to the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday for a showdown with the University of Southern California Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12).

The Trojans come into this game off a second straight narrow victory, this one over the Utah Utes in the first ever Pac-12 football game. USC blocked a potential game-tying field goal at the end of regulation to give the Trojans a 23-14 home victory the Utes. The Trojans were sparked by the return of suspended running back Marc Tyler, the team’s 2010 rushing leader. Tyler carried the ball 24 times for 114 yards in the contest.

The return of Tyler gives the Men of Troy a balanced offensive attack. The USC passing attack is led by one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks, junior Matt Barkley, and a sensational young wide receiver in Robert Woods. Barkley who has started every game since he landed on campus in Southern California has completed 54 of 77 passes this year for 568 yards and four touchdowns to just one interception. Woods is second nationally in receptions and in USC’s opener reeled in 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite these accolades the Trojans led by second-year head coach Lane Kiffin are not taking the Orange lightly. “On defense, [Syracuse was] seventh in the country last year in total defense and seventh in the country in pass defense, so we are going to have our hands full.”

Adding to Kiffin’s concern is the issues USC is having on the offensive line. In an effort to solidify the offensive line, Kiffin is considering starting true freshmen Aundrey Walker and Marcus Martin at the guard spots. “We’re going to give the young guys a shot,” Kiffin said.

On the other side of the ball, Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib will be faced with a couple of talented upperclassmen in pre-season All-American safety T.J. McDonald and defensive end Nick Perry.

“They are playing extremely well in the passing game,” Kiffin said. “They are coached really well.  Anytime that you have a quarterback playing extremely well that is experienced, as an opponent you have to be ready to go.”

It has been sophomore cornerback Torin Harris who has been the closer for the Trojans so far this season. Harris made a game-saving end-of game interception in the opener against Minnesota and then returned Kalil’s blocked field goal for a touchdown sealing the victory against Utah.

It has been 87 years since the Orange last battled the Trojans in the Coliseum.  USC holds a 2-0 record over Syracuse with the most recent meeting a 34-16 season-opening USC win in the 1990 Kickoff Classic in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. USC and Syracuse are scheduled to meet again in 2012 on Sept. 8 in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.

While odds makers don’t give Syracuse much of a chance in this matchup (the Orange are 16.5 point underdogs), consider this—one of the announcers on FX for this game will be none other than Gus Johnson. As most Syracuse fans will painfully remember, you can always expect the unexpected when Johnson is on the call.