So this is going to be a thing now. We're going to do all 12 semi-too early predictions for the Syracuse Orange over the next couple of weeks to prepare everyone for the 2012 season. I'll be using blogs, preseason magazines, gut instincts, and black magic to give you the best preview out there. As of now, the Orange are 1-0 after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats. Next up, the
College Classic New York Classic Battle of the Apple: the USC Trojans.
USC Overview: The USC Trojans are bowl eligible for the first time in a couple of years and are ready to make a splash. The Trojans are returning 19 starters from a 10-2 season where they defeated the Orange 38-17. Due to their probation, they were not eligible to compete in the Pac 12 title game they qualified for and the controversy hasn't exactly ended now that they are no longer blacklisted. Head coach Lane Kiffin, now in his fourth year of leading the Trojans, excused himself from the USA Today coaches poll after he broke a verbal agreement to not vote his team number one in the country.
The ironic thing is that he probably made the right vote. USC is led by quarterback Matt Barkley, who just happens to be the run away favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. The entire offense possess speed and the Trojans got a boost in their one week area, running back, when PSU's Silas Redd made the West Coast move. Quite honestly, this is probably the most talented team in the country and the only thing holding them back from an undisputed No. 1 ranking is their lack of depth across the board. The Trojans have phenomenal starters and a few excellent back ups, but a string of injuries will force players to move positions in order to fill the holes opened up. Overall, this is the toughest test on Syracuse's schedule.
How the Orange Should Attack the Trojans:
The Trojans have a long history of churning out high level NFL defensive players and this season is no exception. Safety T.J. McDonald is the All-American leader while cornerback Nickell Robey is called by Lindy's as "The most dynamic player of the Kiffin era." The strength of USC is in their three sophomore linebackers, who Phil Steele deem as the best since the 2008 championship group led by Clay Mathews and Brian Cushing. Hayes Pullard led the team in tackles while Lamar Dawson is the catalyst for the aggressive play. The only real weakness is in the defensive line. The defensive tackles are relying on potential over result as USC's front line is led by underachieving Senior Devon Kennard on the end.
This leads to the one real hope Syracuse has. The Trojan offense is the most electric in the country (more on that after the jump) and thus the only true way to stop them is to keep them off the field. With an inexperienced front line, the Syracuse line will need to take advantage. Effectively running the ball will open the Trojans up for a big play or two which Syracuse will desperately need. Ultimately, the Orange aren't going to score a lot of points, but if they eat the clock and run the ball while scoring, they will give themselves a chance. If Jerome Smith can wear down USC while gaining yards, the Orange will have their best chance to win.
How the Orange defend the Trojans:
They can't. I'm not being sarcastic when I say this. The Trojans have the best offense in the USC by far and will put up points on any defense this season. Matt Barkley is the best quarterback in the NCAA and should win the Heisman and be the No. 1 overall draft pick. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee make up the fasted and most sure handed wide receiving corps in the country. Silad Redd will add much needed experience and depth and be a perfect counter for speedster Curtis McNeal. The biggest question is how to replace Mat Kalil, who protected Barkley's blind side and went in the first round of the NFL draft.
Unfortunately for the Orange, they do not possess the speed or overal talent to even keep up with the Trojan offense for more than a few series. Barkley and Kiffen are going to easily put up at least 35 a game on any opponent, let alone a Syracuse team still trying to find their linebackers and defensive line. The only way to really "slow" down the offense is to keep this unit off the field. The offense is going to need to control the clock in order to limit the number of Trojan offensive possessions. If the Orange can hold USC to field goals and not touchdowns, Doug Marrone and staff should all be treated to a few rounds at Faegans afterward.
#SHAMARKO Thomas will need to inspire his fellow defensive backs to play physical. If Woods and Lee run free on the secondary, this game will be over before it even starts.
Scheduling USC right before they went on probation could have been a brilliant move. A weakened USC on national television would have been a perfect upset recipe. Instead, USC survived their probation just about as well as a school possibly could and they will return to national dominance in a hurry. This game could be close through the half, but only if Syracuse can dominate time of possession. Ultimately, USC is the number one team in the country and Syracuse is, at best, a mid level Big East team. Advantage USC. Trojans win 38-10.