The USC Trojans and Syracuse Orange, two programs that aren’t often compared to one another, share a number of distinct similarities coming into their Week 3 match-up this Saturday.
Both the Orange and Trojans have achieved their 2-0 records in thrilling fashion with too-close-for-comfort victories. Syracuse, for their part beat Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime in Week 1 action, and then followed that up with a 21-14 win versus Rhode Island last week. USC, similarly, beat Minnesota and Utah in a less than convincing manner en route to their undefeated mark in this early 2011 season.
That last game against Utah, mind you, featured the now-infamous score change in which the Pac-12 opted to alter the final score after the game had long-since ended in an effort to make up for a touchdown-robbing miscall at the end of the fourth quarter.
As it stands, USC holds a 2-0 lead over Syracuse in the series between these two programs – with the last victory coming all the way back in 1990 when the Trojans captured a 34-16 win over the severely overmatched Orange at Giants Stadium.
Syrcause quarterback, Ryan Nassib, will be vital to any offensive success that the team can have against USC. As he showcased during his game-saving drive last week, and the three touchdowns he threw against Rhode Island, Nassib has an innate ability to take over a game. Last week, he also tied the school record for completions in a game with 29, and become only the eighth quarterback in the history of Syracuse football to break the 3,000-yard mark in his career.
The Trojans will aim to slow down an Orange offense that has been averaging nearly 29 points and 327 yards per outing. The Syracuse rush attack isn’t as lethal or as potent as it once was under running Delone Carter. However, Antwon Bailey has been a serviceable replacement and will no doubt be a point of focus for USC.
Fortunately for Southern Cal’s finest, they have their own impressive offensive attack featuring quarterback, Matt Barkley. As it stands, Barkley is averaging 284 yards per game and has amassed four touchdowns. Robert Woods has been a frequent target thus far in the young season, and with his 25 catches for 279 yards and three scores, has established himself as one of the premiere go-to guys in the nation. The re-addition of Mark Tyler from suspension only further boosted the Trojans offense, as the talented -- but outspoken -- speedster put together his fourth career 100-yard performance.
The one thing going against USC’s offense at this point, though, is an unfortunate streak of inconsistency through two games. Against Minnesota, the Trojans couldn’t put a single point on the board in the second half and versus Utah they only mustered one offensive score in the second half.
Defensively, USC is strong and has only given up 310.5 yards per game for the year. They’ve also racked up six sacks along the way, putting particular emphasis on pressuring opposing passers.
Given everything we’ve seen over the last two weeks, assuming that Syracuse will simply roll over for Barkley and Co. would be crazy. Both of these squads have effective -- albeit sporadic -- offenses that can score in a hurry, so defense may end up playing a big role in this one.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday.