Sept. 8, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Jerome Smith (45) scores a touchdown (center) as players celebrate during the third quarter against the USC Trojans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Each week, we'll be holding a roundtable discussion with TNIAAM's football "experts" to get a read on the program's most pressing issues on- and off-the-field. Have differing opinions? Feel free to share them in the comments.
What's the biggest reason we lost to USC, in your opinion?
Jeremy Ryan: Talent. USC has a dozen players who could be in the NFL in the next year or two. You can only contain them for so long before someone breaks a big play somewhere. I think it's impressive that SU held on for as long as they did.
Matt McClusky: I think this one is easy, Southern California was too talented for Syracuse. There were some questionable calls by officials, head-scratching decisions by Doug Marrone and Ryan Nassib, and some dumb luck that all contributed to the final score, but simply put, USC was the better team.
Andy Pregler: The biggest reason we lost is that they have NFL talent at every position and we do not. USC is a vastly superior team on the field and it was a valley effort by Syracuse to hang in there the way they did. I would argue Marrone and crew out coached USC but the Trojans had far too much talent to overcome. That said, it was felt most in the secondary. Matt Barkley and his NFL duo at wideout are better than every secondary in the country and ours was no exception.
Chris Daughtrey: The obvious reason is that the Trojans are simply better than the Orange. Perhaps the gap isn't quite as big as some might have thought, but it's still there. For the sake of the column, though, I'm going to harp on execution. Syracuse got down early and were never able to really catch up due to missed chances in the first half. Marcus Sales dropped a difficult but catchable ball that would have moved the chains in the second quarter. Ryan Nassib missed Jeremiah Kobena for a touchdown just before halftime, forcing them to settle for a field goal. When you're trying to slay the giant, you can't have those little mistakes.
Dan Lyons: People can point to the two punt calls as things that hurt Syracuse's chance for the upset, and they're not wrong, but at the end of the day USC still had a significant talent advantage across the board. Besides maybe a handful of players, Syracuse faced a talent deficit at almost every position on the field, which makes the fact that the Orange was in a position to take a lead in the fourth quarter, and at the end of the day, outgained the Trojans on offense that much more impressive. However, when you go up against an offense with three almost sure-fire first round draft picks, you're probably not going to win the ball game that often. As bad as the two punt calls were, at the same time you have to credit the coaching staff for instilling in this team the belief that they could compete, and ultimately win. They may have fallen short, but that team was not out there to keep things close on Saturday.
Sean Keeley: We didn't play a perfect game. USC has so much talent, it was really just a matter of time. It was up to Syracuse to overcome that by playing about as close to a perfect game as possible. We didn't, they woke up in the end, and here we are. I still think we played well overall and proved that the offensive output in Week 1 was no fluke.
John Cassillo:So many small-ish things add up to the larger issue of discipline and focus. The punt calls, overly conservative play-calling, penalties, God-awful tackling, failing to look for the ball while in coverage... I could go on. I do like Marrone quite a bit, but these have all been persistent issues under his watch for four years now.
After two games, assess Ryan Nassib's NFL prospects:
JR: At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Nassib has decent size for an NFL quarterback. He has shown he can sling the ball around in a pro-style offense, and has been coached by a former pro offensive coordinator. I think he'll be a mid-round draft pick this spring, and could have a Todd Philcox-like career as a backup and occasional starter.
MM: I think I speak for a lot of Orange fans when I say buuwwaaaa??? Nassib's sudden rise up NFL draft expert's boards is a little bizarre. The senior has, very quietly, almost too quietly, put together a solid career, but I don't see him playing on Sundays.
AP: I said after last season Nassib could be a competent NFL backup quarterback like Charlie Batch of the Steelers: solid enough not to definitively lose you the game but you need a team around him. I think Nassib's lack of a deep ball and inconsistencies on touch passes are what will prevent him from being a starter in the NFL, but as of now, you have to think a good quarterbacks coach could turn him into a decent starter.
CD: If it happens at all, it'll be as a Drew Brees 2.0 scenario. Undersized, underrated, under-appreciated. I think he's going to have to be one of those guys who has an opportunity fall in his lap and he grabs hold of it with both hands. I think it's that or bust for him. I don't see him sticking around as a career backup or anything like that because there will always be someone bigger, stronger and faster to hold the clip board.
DL: Entering the season I thought that Nassib would have a shot at sneaking into the draft in round 5-7, and now I think that is the worst case scenario. In the last few days I've seen him discussed as high as a third round pick, and while that may be a bit high, if he continues to put up huge numbers and can improve on his touch throws and deep passes, I don't think it is out of the question.
SK: Honestly, before this season I had absolutely no expectation of him being drafted and possibly not even getting a workout. I just didn't think he'd done anything to warrant it. Now? The guys is playing himself into draft status. It will all depend on how much he keeps this up but I think we could definitely see him get a late round name-call at this point. His size and arm strength doesn't wow anyone and, remember, that stuff means more come draft time. I wouldn't buy in to the 2nd round/3rd round hype just yet, but I think he could warrant a 5th round/6th round selection at this point.
JC: He's been mentioned as a Heisman contender, with the one caveat being our 0-2 record. I don't think that status will hold at all, but I believe folks are noticing him now, and getting a glimpse of the smarts that could let him succeed at the pro level. Third/fourth round would be plenty fair right now.
Will Syracuse be able to contain the Stony Brook running game on Saturday?
JR: Yes. SU's talent is more superior to Stony Brook than USC's is to SU. Stony Brook will get some yards here and there, but I don't think we should be too concerned.
MM: I see Stony Brook, with two better than FCS running backs, sticking with SU on Saturday. But given Syracuse's last eight quarters, I'm guessing Marrone and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer have the right game plan to contain the Seawolves (a strange sentence if there ever was one). Let's hope the lessons of Northwestern and USC carry over to the season starting this weekend.
AP: Before the season started I said no. Now, the linebackers and "'meat" have stepped up and this is Stony Brook. The key will be getting through their line to get to the backs before they get to the second level. The running backs are at the level of any other team Syracuse will face. The offensive line is not. That's the weakness that needs to be exploited.
CD: Given how Silas Redd gashed the Orange last week, it's hard to have much confidence in the run defense. At the same time, three-time defending Southland champions they may be, Stony Brook is still no USC. I'd like to think that Syracuse can play the role of the bully in this one. Use superior size and talent to cover up any shortcomings in execution. We'll see what happens on Saturday.
DL: I sure hope so, considering that at the end of the day they are an FCS team. Stony Brook has some scary players who have competed at higher levels than the Big South, and they actually do match up fairly well size-wise, but a few D-1 talents does not make a great team. I think that their backs may get theirs, like Colgate's Nate Eachus did a few years ago (he made the Kansas City Chiefs this year, by the way), but it won't be enough to keep up with the Ryan Nassib-led onslaught on the other side of the ball. At least that's what I tell myself, as I cry myself to sleep at night thinking of the ghosts of FCS games past.
SK: I actually think so. Those stats are so inflated because they've played a Division II team and a really bad FCS team. Of course, both Mayonet and Coker are really good, but if there's any one unit I have faith in, its our defensive front seven. Their QB has thrown fifteen passes so far this year, which is like a quarter for Ryan Nassib. If he make him try to beat us, I don't see how even our secondary can't neutralize them.
JC: If previous FCS games are any indication, you're going to be biting your nails in a panic for the first few series. But based on how we've started our first two games, maybe we come out swinging? I do think we'll give up 150-200 rushing yards. Just don't know how much that'll be reflected in the score.
Our first two opponents will likely start the season a combined 14-0. Thoughts?
JR: Syracuse has a tough schedule this season, perhaps one of the toughest in the country. USC will be in the hunt for the national title, and Northwestern played in a bowl last year in a competitive conference. Considering the Orange should have won the Northwestern game and put up a good showing against the Trojans, I think they should feel pretty good about themselves.
MM: We knew last spring that the schedule would be brutal and so far...so good (?). The thing is, it only gets easier from here on out. I didn't like the Orange playing one of the nation's toughest slates, but now I think it will pay off once the conference season hits. In some ways this start reminds me of the 2001 team. A tough schedule led to two quick losses (Meadowlands against Georgia Tech, at Tennessee), but the team grew up, gained confidence and ended up with 10 wins.
AP: We all knew USC could make a National Championship run. Phil Steele thought Northwestern could win the B1G. Those were two extremely difficult games to start the season with and why we will hear "best 0-2 team/best 1-2 team in the country" for the next couple of weeks.
CD: It doesn't really matter. I'm not really one to get into that "best 0-2 team in the country" business. You can't be all that great if you haven't won a game yet. It doesn't matter if all Syracuse's opponents go undefeated if the Orange put up an oh'fer season. And, really, opponents' records only matter if you're trying to squeeze out percentage points in the BCS rankings. Syracuse doesn't factor into that at all, so I take no solace in the fact that they came close to beating some good teams.
DL: Great! I may have said that I thought that Syracuse was a few touchdowns better than Northwestern, but I don't think Northwestern is bad by any means. I think that Fitzgerald will do what he does, they'll clean up out of conference, feast on the weak B1G teams, get a mild upset victory or two, and lose in a bowl game. As for USC, we'll see. I'm a bit less impressed with USC than I thought I would be after seeing them live. I'd love to see Northwestern have a great year, and I guess USC being good looks good for us as well, but my love of Lane Kiffin-based schadenfreude may overwhelm that if they lose to Oregon this season.
SK: Good. Anything to drive home just how tough our non-conference schedule is. If we do get back on track and get into the mix for rankings or Big East titles, we're gonna need that street cred. Finishing 7-5 with tons of bowl teams on our schedule is a huge boost to image and reputation.
JC: Awesome for reputation right now, since it is earning us some praise in the face of our winless record. If we turn it around, obviously those good vibes continue. Obviously, I'm not surprised at all that USC would start the year 7-0, though I only realized the same about NU after looking through their schedule and laughing 'till I got to their eighth game.
If you were ranking the Big East teams right now, where would you place SU?
JR: I would have them in the middle of the pack. I can see SU beating Pitt, Temple, UConn, and Cincy. If their offense keeps clicking they're going to score a lot of points on a lot of teams.
MM: I'm biased but I think Syracuse, despite the record, is probably the third best team in the league behind Louisville and USF. Every team has major issues in the conference, but SU's flaws are probably far fewer than the other teams.
AP: I'm on record for saying the Orange can and have a good shot at winning the Big East. As of now, I place them behind only 'Ville and Cincy. Temple, Pitt, and UConn all look like cupcakes with no offense. Rutgers and USF now have huge question marks on offense. I like Cuse in a shootout against everyone except the Cardinals. The Big East is just looking much weaker this year.
CD: With the Orange yet to have notched a W, it's hard to place them anywhere but the bottom, no matter what the bright spots. In fact, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are the only teams in either conference without a win. Even Duke and Temple have W's. So I'd put Syracuse next to last, above Pitt, simply because Pitt had the awful loss to Youngstown State and then got destroyed by Cincy. Syracuse at least put up a fight, but that's pretty much all that can be said for them.
DL: Fourth, right ahead of Rutgers. Yeah, I might be a homer putting an 0-2 Syracuse team over 2-0 Rutgers, but I'm fairly certain Rutgers plays my ten-year old cousin's Weehawken, New Jersey Pop Warner team this weekend. Syracuse has played the best two teams that anyone in the Big East has faced thus far, including a bonafide powerhouse #2 team in the nation, and should have won one game and was only down by five in the other in the fourth quarter. I think that Syracuse will contend for a Big East title this year, and now that the schedule is easing up, I think Syracuse will work its way into the top half of the conference standings soon enough.
SK: I put SU seventh in the Big East Power Rankings but I'll admit that's more because of general record and to downplay them. They're probably actually fourth or fifth right now in terms of quality play. Louisville is up top, Cincy is behind them, then it's USF and Rutgers and then Syracuse. Rutgers' wins were unimpressive and USF has looked spotty, so I think the Orange are in the mix with those guys. And those games could make-or-break how we end up this year.
JC: Despite my better judgment, Syracuse should sit at least fifth in the Big East rankings, and I'd campaign for them to move all the way up to third. As has been alluded to, there isn't a team in the Big East that really scares me in a matchup with SU. If we continue to run the up-tempo, it'll be hard to stop us in that league. No one has the defenders to run like that.