GAME NOTES: Despite routing the Hawaii Warriors in their season-opener last weekend, the USC Trojans fell from the top spot in the national polls and now head to the East Coast this weekend to put their new number two ranking on the line against the Syracuse Orange in the first annual New York's College Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The demotion that USC suffered in the top-25 had little to do with their lopsided victory over Hawaii and everything to do with Alabama's impressive victory over Michigan last week. Lane Kiffin's squad certainly did its part in destroying Hawaii, 49-10, to open the 2012 season in spectacular fashion. Following a two-year ban from postseason play, the Trojans are poised to make a run at the national title this year.
The Orange received a super-human effort from their quarterback in their season-opener, but it wasn't enough in the end, as Doug Marrone's team dropped a thrilling 42-41 shootout to Northwestern.
The Orange have had plenty of success against current members of the Pac-12 (17-12), although they have never beaten USC. The Trojans have won the three previous meetings, including a 38-17 decision at the Coliseum last year.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley got his Heisman campaign off on a strong note, as he opened the Hawaii game with a 75-yard TD pass to sophomore Marqise Lee. Barkley and the rest of the Trojans never looked back, as the team put up 475 yards of total offense, including 394 through the air. Barkley was responsible for most of that, completing 23-of-38 passes, for 372 yards and four TDs.
Coming off a Freshman-All American season in 2011, Lee was unstoppable in the opener, hauling in 10 passes for 197 yards and one TD, while returning a kickoff 100 yards for a second score. Lee will certainly benefit once again by having All-American wideout Robert Woods on the other side. The 6-foot-1 junior was instrumental in the win over the Warriors as well, posting six catches, for 42 yards and two TDs.
Newly acquired tailback Silas Redd had a solid debut with his new team, as the former Penn State Nittany Lion averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored on a 31-yard scamper in the second quarter to highlight the USC ground game.
Norm Chow had no answer for USC's defense in the opener, as the former Trojan assistant, now Hawaii head coach, failed to move the football, with his team managing a mere 264 yards of total offense, including just 56 yards on 1.8 yards per carry. The Trojans were very active in their pursuit up the field, posting 12 TFLs and five sacks in the game.
Sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey led the team in tackles with seven. Fellow sophomore linebacker Hayes Pullard made his presence felt as well, posting six tackles, while returning an interception 27 yards for a score in the first quarter. Both linebackers are All-American candidates in 2012 and headline a high-energy defense.
Getting Syracuse's Ryan Nassib to play much better than he did in the season- opener against Northwestern is hard to fathom. The veteran signal-caller had a record-setting performance, completing 45-of-65 passes, for a school-record 482 yards and four TDs. The only problem, was they wound up being hollow stats, as the team dropped a 42-41 decision to the Wildcats in the waning moments of the game, after an impressive second-half comeback that saw the team score 28 unanswered points. Still, Syracuse churned out nearly 600 yards of total offense (596), as Nassib was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week.
Nassib got help from receivers Marcus Sales (12 catches, 129 yards, one TD) and Jeremiah Kobena (four catches, 79 yards, two TDs), but once again it wasn't enough.
The Orange had the Wildcats on the ropes late in the game, but the defense failed, as Northwestern got the ball with under three minutes left and scored the decisive touchdown with just 0.44 remaining.
Despite the team giving up a whopping 42 points, the numbers weren't all that bad, as Syracuse allowed just 337 yards of total offense in the game and recorded five sacks.
Sophomore safety Durell Eskridge led the team with nine total tackles. Defensive leader Marquis Spruill was right behind, as the junior LB posted eight stops, with 2.0 TFLs and a sack.
Syracuse put up eye-popping passing numbers last week, but it still wasn't enough. Expect Nassib to return to Earth in this one, as he will not have similar success against the Trojans.
The Orange will struggle with Barkley and all of the offensive weapons at his disposal, leading to what should be another impressive victory for the Trojans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC 44, Syracuse 17