Syracuse Football Roundtable, Week of September 3 (USC)

Sep 1, 2012; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange wide receiver Marcus Sales (5) runs up field past Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo (44) during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Northwestern defeated Syracuse 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-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.

Will Alec Lemon see the field next week?

Jeremy Ryan: My heart says he'll REALLY want to play, especially after seeing the Syracuse offense light it up without him. My head says the coaching staff will recognize the expected outcome of the USC game and elect to keep him safe on the sidelines for one more week.

Matt McClusky: With Lemon being listed as day-to-day, which is better than being listed as minute-to-minute presumably, I will say Lemon sits out another game before seeing the field and hopefully adding to Syracuse's electric (so far) offense.

Andy Pregler: I'm not sure we will. They seem to be taking it very cautiously with Sir Lemon so I would think that in a game like this were the expectation is to just play well and hope lady luck is feeling orange, resting Lemon another week is smart. I'm going to be worried if Lemon isn't back by the end of month though.

Chris Daughtrey: If he's ready, he'll go. If he's not, he won't. It's as simple as that to me. Not to go all pessimistic or anything, but I don't think Alec Lemon is going to drastically shift the game in the Orange's favor. If he's not 100%, there's no reason to play him.

Dan Lyons: Just based on the Marrone's tone when he was asked about it, I'm going to say no. And I'm okay with that. Chances are Lemon isn't going to be the difference in the game, and the offense looked great with out him. Let him get to 100%, have a speed up game against Stony Brook, and then let's see what he can do.

Sean Keeley: Well of course he will SEE the field. I'll SEE the field. Come on, John... As for whether or not he'll play, I don't think so. I've seen enough out of Doug Marrone in four years to know that when he's wishy-washy all week about a guy playing, that guy almost never plays. Isn't it just SO Syracuse that two of our best players (Lemon, Pugh) are missing critical games to start the year? SO Syracuse.

John Cassillo: We managed without him against Northwestern, so I'm just wary to bring him back against USC if he fails to be at his best. There's a good chance we're losing this game. Might as well rest up guys that can help contribute to wins later on down the road.

What are your expectations for the SU offense after week one's explosion?

JR: A soul-crushing reality check? USC > Northwestern, by a factor of about 50.

MM: I wrote earlier in the week that Syracuse needs to no-huddle the crap out the offense (I know, I'm a wordsmith). While I don't think we'll see Nassib throw as much as he did Saturday against Northwestern, I do think we'll see SU go with that up-tempo O all season.

AP: I expect teams to now have the Syracuse passing game on their radar and Hackett to respond by going uber conservative. Half serious there. Against USC I don't think the idea will be to speed up the game unless Syracuse is having tremendous success against the Trojan secondary. It makes much more sense to slow the pace of the game down and keep Matt Barkley off the field. I'm hoping PTG and Jerome "The Bus" Smith get to show off what they can do.

CD: I expect them to come back down to earth. USC is not Northwestern. Despite 500 yards from Nassib and 41 points on the score board, the Orange were sloppy in the opener. If they play that way against the Trojans, they'll be lucky to tally a field goal.

DL: I don't expect 600 yards a game, but I just hope we stay the course. I do have a little lingering fear that Marrone is going to try to revert to "slow the pace and stay in it until the fourth quarter" mode, and that just hasn't worked well for SU recently, especially without a Delone Carter-type bruiser in the backfield. Even if USC stomps on Syracuse, I want to just see them ride this offense all season, because I think it gives us a much better chance to make noise in the Big East.

SK: We have to come back down to Earth a little, if only because of the massive talent level we'll be facing. That said, I think we're all expecting Barkley, Lee and Woods to carve up our secondary again, which means if Syracuse wants to compete, they're gonna have to track-meet it again. And in that sense, it's totally possible that Nassib could put up big numbers. My question is, will Syracuse rush for more than 100 yards on Saturday? I would imagine we won't.

JC: Obviously I'd love to see Syracuse turn into the "Greatest Show on Turf." But it's unlikely, and given the state of the football team, we probably don't have a bunch of track stars raring to go, either. Even if we take a slight downward turn, I think the year's promising from a scoring standpoint.

Who was your "unsung hero" of Saturday's game?

JR: Doug Marrone. I was very impressed with how he didn't commit homicide after all of those penalties and mental errors.

MM: (Side Note - That game Saturday reminded me of one of my all-time favorite games I saw in person. The 1994 opener for the Orangemen against Oklahoma. The Sooners got up early, SU fought back to gain a late lead, but a questionable flag - a horrible celebration penalty - gave OU a short field to set up the game winning field goal.)

So many of the Orange men deserve credit for their role in one of the most exciting fourth quarters in Carrier Dome history. I'll go with the O-Line. Ryan Nassib gets the pub, rightfully so, for throwing for all those yards, completions, and TDs, but how about giving some love to the Bigs who gave him time to work? Just about every year the offensive line is a big question mark, but this year (especially when Justin Pugh returns from injury) could be a different story.

AP: Tough one seeing that so much has been said already about so many guys but just because the linebackers played such a huge game, I'm going to go with Marquis Spruill. This unit will be asked a lot as the "meat" work on meshing together as a unit and 'Cuse plays a lot of mobile quarterbacks. If they can maintain this level of performance, maybe the defense isn't as bad as we predicted.

CD: For me it was Marcus Sales. Yeah, I know he caught 11 balls and a TD, but the fact that most of his catches were off screens and whatnot made it seem like he didn't do much until I looked at the box score. Or maybe it was just the fact that I was less than sober and saw the game live, without the benefit of the nifty TV graphics.

DL: Sean Hickey, although I think his strong play was fairly "sung". He really played a great game, and he and Justin Pugh are going to make for an incredible combination on either end of the line once Pugh returns to the lineup.

SK: Our shaky recent history of offensive line woes means anytime that unit puts together a solid game, it's worth recognizing. Especially since it's No. 1 guy wasn't even on the field. The less we hear about these guys, the better.

JC: Lots of choices, but how about Prince-Tyson Gulley? Personally, I was done with Smith after that boneheaded fumble. Would've happily let Gulley, who was averaging twice the amount of yards per carry (7.1) as Smith (3.4) on less touches, carry the load.

Not to belabor the point, but what are your thoughts on the late penalty call against Northwestern?

JR: It's technically a correct call, but you don't make that call in that situation. Let the players decide the game. No one pays to see the refs blow the whistle.

MM: This is about the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law. By the book, it was a good call. If you're near the white line, DON'T EVEN PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE OTHER PLAYER. Yet, at the same time, given that point in the game and the fact that it wasn't a violent or even excessive push, that's a questionable call.

AP: The call was wrong. However, after Northwestern had already driven the ball that far into Cuse territory, it felt like the boys in purple were going to score no matter what. It was just a question of how much time Marrone and company would be left to work with.

CD: First, it as definitely a blown call. Lyn clearly made initial contact while on the field of play. I haven't seen any replays of the incident, so I'm not sure if there was an extra shove or something after the fact, but it seemed like a clean play. Regardless, it's up to the defense to make the stop. Yeah, the penalty extended the drive, but they know that N'Western needs a TD. Call or no call, the D just didn't get it done.

DL: Originally I thought it was probably the right call (from where I was sitting, the 300 level on the other side) that probably didn't need to be made given the circumstances, so I was a bit annoyed. However, since I've seen replays and still shots, it's made the call look much worse. I get protecting the quarterback, but he was almost entirely in bounds from what I could tell.

SK: It was just like the Salute in the Pinstripe Bowl. It should not have been called, but, as the player you have to know that officials are hyper-sensitive to calling that kind of penalty as the clock is ticking down. I don't want to say Lyn shouldn't have made a tackle, but I think he should have had some awareness of back off just a bit. That said, it was a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible call.

JC: So maybe it didn't explicitly hand them the game-winning points, but I'm sure it was implied. I wasn't at the Dome for the game, but I'd assume that penalty sucked the air out of the place, and killed any momentum our guys had left. Terrible call in terms of where we were at in the contest.

Comment as you wish: Pittsburgh loses to Youngstown State by two TDs at home...

JR: Is it too late to tell the ACC to take UConn instead?

MM: I want so desperately to rip the Panthers here, but all I can think is, I hope this doesn't happen to Syracuse! I mean, Stony Brook isn't Youngstown State, but the Seawolves aren't exactly Savannah State, either.

CD: I dunno what's going on in Panther Nation. First the basketball team lays an egg last season, and now this. Maybe they're trying to set up a hustle for when they join the ACC, making everyone thing they're crap so they can catch the new conference foes unawares.

AP: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Pitt. Watch them win the Big East. They always stumble out of the gate but wow, that was embarrassing. I did pick the better football school!

DL: This is why you can't have nice coaches.

SK: Normally I'd laugh my face off but because Pittsburgh and Syracuse are intrinsically linked this season, their horror show becomes our horror show. They were supposed to go 11-1 with their only loss being to us. And then we both laugh at the Big East as we drive off. Unfortunately, it's not looking that way. I just hope the ACC didn't keep the receipt.

JC: I've got mixed feelings. Funny to see one of our rivals fall flat on their faces. Unfortunate timing, though. Pitt's better than Youngstown State. They'll probably spend the next four months fighting off that loss, regardless of forthcoming accomplishments.

John Cassillo authors Atlantic Coast Convos, which chronicles every aspect of ACC (plus Syracuse & Pittsburgh) football. Check out the blog, and follow him on Twitter: @JohnCassillo

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