Syracuse Football: How The Orange Will Beat USC {And Party Like It's 1984}

Ryan Nassib sure looks good in the no-huddle offense, will Doug Marrone continue to run it? The answer could determine the outcome against S.C. Or....not. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

Welcome to my latest creation, "How The Orange Will Beat {insert next opponent}." Straight from my lab of steaming beakers and crazy smoking machines directly to your pupils, a perfectly crafted recipe for how the Orange will beat its next opponent. A formula on how Syracuse can inch itself ever closer to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. We'll unveil this perfect game plan weekly, starting with....WHAT? The USC Trojans? Is it too late to just do another "Larry King" post?

How will Syracuse beat the University of Southern California?

The Trojans would have to miss its team plane.

The temperature of Hell would have to decrease, significantly.

SU will only win this game if the S.C. that shows up is that of Southern College (of Optometry).

We've heard them all, right? But still, upsets happen. Just ask Nebraska when it was ranked No. 1 and expected to hammer a lowly Syracuse team. The Cornhuskers came into that game in September of 1984 riding high, while, quiet conversely, SU was down and out, shutout by Rutgers the previous week. Everyone said that the Orangemen had no chance in that game nearly 30 years ago. But as it turns out, Syracuse didn't care about where it had been, it didn't care about the previous week, it didn't even care about expectations in beating the top-ranked 'Huskers 17-9.

It's hard to believe that game took place in 1984. It's even more difficult to imagine that some three decades later Syracuse once again sits as a massive underdog as it takes on a number one ranked team. SU is a program with some life, but no national substance. In many ways that Orange team of '84, led by Dick MacPherson in his fourth season, mirrors the 2012 version of Doug Marrone's Orange.

Both took over Syracuse when everyone thought the program was at its lowest. Both, in their own distinct accents, told anyone who would listen that Syracuse football could win. Both gave fans hope, six wins in year three from Coach Mac and a bowl win for Marrone in year two. Beating Nebraska didn't make SU a power right away back in the early '80s, but it did prove to just about everyone that the Orangemen football program was on its way to something special. A lot of fans still believe Marrone is bringing SU on that same ride, but a win Saturday over the Men of Troy would certainly make for a lot more believers.

Now the question is, how does Marrone, a linemen on the team that upset No. 1 in '84, get his team to do it again, this time as head coach? It's almost an impossible question to answer, especially given that SU was down 35 - 13 in the third quarter to a marginal Northwestern team just last like week. But remember, Coach Mac's team didn't even score against the Scarlet Knights the week before upending the Cornhuskers.

I'll admit, I don't think Syracuse is going to win this game, certainly a camp that I am not alone in. Sure, Marrone has improved this Syracuse group immensely over his tenure, but, did you see S.C. against Hawaii? Have you seen Matt Barkley play QB? There's a reason why he'll go top five in the NFL draft. There's a reason why a bunch of Barkley's teammates, like star wide outs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and a slew of others (including Penn State transfer Silas Redd), will be joining him on Sundays very soon. Plus, I don't care how Northwestern got that big lead against SU, the fact is, S.C. would beat the Wildcats by 40 if the two teams played right now.

But, 28 years ago I would have said the same thing about Syracuse's chances against Nebraska. That Cornhuskers team had 22 future NFL players on it, including three All-Americans. Plus, need I remind you that SU was shutout by Rutgers the previous week. So, although it doesn't seem likely, there is a chance that SU could beat S.C. - the Southern California S.C.

And while I think so many things will need to happen for the Orange to win this game, possibly even hopping in the Delorean and bringing back that '84 Orangemen line up, I'm going to narrow it down to three "simple" categories, with the first two being practically the same thing.

  • NO TURNOVERS - I know what you're thinking, "Wow, that's some perfect formula, Matt! Just play perfect football! Why not just play that way every game?" OK, so sometimes this isn't exactly rocket science, but I'm not talking about the simple, every day type of turnover. I'm talking about the, No! I can't believe that just happened! type of turnover. Like Ryan Nassib's lateral to Jerome Smith that seemed to stay on the turf for 30 solid seconds before Chi Chi Ariguzo (who disappointed me by not doing some type of golf club related celebration) picked it up for Northwestern and ran to the house for a touchdown.

Last year SU only had one turnover against S.C., a fumble, and it lost by 21. (Want some more hope? SU lost to Nebraska in '83, the year before it upset 'Huskers, by a score of 63 - 7.) This season, even after the loss to the Wildcats, fans feel more confident in this Orange team. If they are right, that Syracuse is better, than eliminating stupid giveaways should put Syracuse closer to the Trojans (In a totally non-sexual way, of course).

  • Dumb Down Special Teams - Ariguzo's return of a fumble for a touchdown and Venric Mark's two punt returns, one for a score and another setting up an eventual score, are the main reasons why SU's winning percentage sits at .000 instead of 1.000. Special teams shouldn't be that much of an issue when the head coach is the man in charge of the unit, but for Syracuse, there was nothing special about it last week.

And the scary part is S.C.has a boatload of players far more dangerous than Mark waiting to return a punt or kick to the house. And while Marrone is likely to take what happened against Northwestern personally, and thus try to overhaul things quickly, he should fight that inclination. Keep it simple, stupid. Meaning; kickoffs and punts should land no where near the deep men. Let the Trojans have a little better field position to start drives with over letting a speedy skill guy burn up the sidelines for six.

  • No Huddle The Crap Out Of It - Unlike on offense, the Trojans are more of something like a work in progress on defense. Loaded with future stars, but still young and possibly vulnerable to different styles of offense, especially the offense that Syracuse trotted out against Northwestern. This should become the staple of the SU offense in 2012, electric and fast.

After the game Marrone intimated that the exciting, pass first, second and third, offense that fans saw Saturday was more a reflection of his team being down big more than a style preference. Here's hoping that's not the case. Football is about the quarterback and SU may have one that's good enough to win a bunch of games by himself. Nassib not only looked comfortable in a fast paced offense, he flourished. Give him the chance to beat, or at least hang with, USC. The Orange O-Line did well in it and Nassib, while breaking all sorts of records, threw to nine different receivers. It was exciting and, at least against Northwestern, unstoppable. Why not just run like that against the Trojans? What is there really to lose? For the first time in four years the Orange looked, if you squinted long enough, a little like Marrone's old Saints teams, and that is good for fans and could be bad for teams.

Outlook - So that's how Syracuse is going to win, right? Well, even if Syracuse doesn't have any turnovers, plays sound in special teams, and runs its no-huddle to perfection, it probably won't shock the college football world by beating the Trojans. But, if Syracuse can eliminate the stupid and run its game plan, there is no reason Syracuse can't make this game a (Jim Ross alert!) slobber-knocker. Syracuse did that in '84 and walked away with a win NO ONE saw coming.

Of course, for all the possible similarities between this game and the upset of Nebraska in 1984, there is one, rather important, difference; this "home" game will be played in New Jersey. Hopefully location isn't an important factor for history to repeat itself Saturday.

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