Syracuse will look to bounce back from the tough defeat against Northwestern and stay competitive with the nation’s second ranked team, the University of Southern California (1-0).
The tilt this Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, will be a rematch of the matchup last year where the Orange lost 38-17 to the Trojans at the Coliseum.
Will the Orange be able to hang in there with a team who has their sights on a BCS Championship?
Here are three other questions to ask for Saturday.
1. CAN SYRACUSE STOP MATT BARKLEY?
Last season Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 3,528 yards a Pac-12 record 39 touchdowns. The scary thing is the Trojan offense might be even more explosive this year.
Barkley and junior All-American wide receiver Robert Woods highlight the Trojan aerial attack, although sophomore receiver Marqise Lee should not be overlooked. Woods and Lee have been tabbed as the best receiving duo in the country.
Last week Barkley threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-10 victory over the University of Hawaii. On the first play from scrimmage, Barkley connected with Lee for a 75 yard touchdown. The Trojans raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
Last September against the Orange, Barkley was 26-for-39 passing for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone was not exactly thrilled when Barkley decided to forego the NFL draft and come back to USC. “Obviously, I was one of a couple of people that were hoping that he would go on and move on and go to the NFL,” Marrone said in his weekly Big East coaches’ teleconference. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m happy that he came back.”
Last season inexperience at linebacker and cornerback seemed to be the primary reasons Syracuse ranked last in the Big East in total defense (386.4 ypg) and scoring defense (28.5 ppg). In 2012, experienced junior Keon Lyn and senior Ri’Shard Anderson anchor a deep and athletic secondary.
They will have their hands full this week though with Matt Barkely & Co.
2. WILL THE TROJAN RUN GAME GET ON TRACK AGAINST THE ORANGE?
The Trojans came into the season expecting to feature a two headed monster in Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd. McNeal is coming off a 2011 season where he averaged 6.9 yards per carry in route to a 1,005 rushing yards, whereas Redd averaged 5.1 yards per carry in route to 1,241 rushing yards.
Questions arose this week after the duo had only 15 total carriers for 66 yards against Hawaii. Is there something wrong with the Trojan rushing attack?
Although USC lost All-American Matt Kalil to the NFL, they return the other four starters on the offensive line, led by senior center Khaled Holmes. Although they lack some depth, everything appears in place for the Trojans to have a solid ground game this year.
With the Orange likely focusing on the Barkley-Woods-Lee combination this Saturday, there will likely be a lot of opportunities for McNeal and Redd. I expect the Trojans to put up some impressive numbers on the ground this week and show a balance on offense that will give headaches to their future opponents.
3. DOES SYRACUSE HAVE ANY SHOT AT THIS GAME?
The Trojans come into this game as the No. 2 ranked team in the nation with something to prove. Still bitter from the two year bowl ban that was lifted this season, Syracuse should expect a good effort from the Men of Troy.
With the weapons USC has on offense and a defense that is speedy enough to create havoc for Ryan Nassib and the Orange offensive attack, it is difficult to see Syracuse staying competitive in this matchup.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: USC 45, SYRACUSE 17