Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The USC Trojans need to improve as a team if they expect to sweep through the Pac-12 this season.
The USC Trojans probably didn't have the convincing victory everyone was expecting against the Syracuse Orange. However, just because USC wasn't playing a marquee opponent like Nebraska or Oklahoma State doesn't make their win any less impressive; they did have to travel 3000 miles to score the win. The Trojans jumped out early, held off a rally, then punched back for the killing blow. They did what good teams are supposed to do on the road.
The USC offense did their job. Matt Barkley threw six touchdowns, mostly dinking and dunking his way around the field to Marqise Lee and Robert Woods (only 187 yards passing and 6.2 passing yards per attempt, although he did complete 76.7% of his passes). It was actually the USC run game that impressed more with Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal combining for 170 yards, and Lee and Woods putting up another 99 on two end-arounds.
But the Trojans seem to be struggling at putting everything else together to issue a complete performance.
USC racked up 12 penalties for 82 yards to really eat away at their margin of victory. The Trojans were only up by 5 points going into the fourth quarter thanks to an inopportune Trojan turnove. The defense was at best average; it has to be concerning that the Trojans gave up 322 passing yards to Ryan Nassib. The second CB spot on the other side of Nickell Robey still has yet to be filled by a capable coverage man, and Syracuse seemed to capitalize multiple times. It has to be concerning that no third receiver seems to be developing behind Woods and Lee, that USC gave up as many sacks as they produced, and that the Trojans might be without their best offensive lineman in Khaled Holmes with no real great replacements out there.
With the Pac-12 slate looking fiercer than ever, the Trojans can't keep on dawdling around. They need to take care of their business week in, week out. The wins are coming, but the execution needs to get better or someone else will out-execute them one Saturday afternoon and make all those title dreams vanish in a poof.
SB Nation Snippets
Will Robinson of Conquest Chronicles points out the emergence of Morgan Breslin and how huge the JuCo DE has been in replacing Devon Kennard.
Since Redd’s arrival, the number one concern with USC was their defensive line depth. With no Devon Kennard for the season among others, the group looked thin. Enter Breslin, a junior college transfer from the Bay Area. Breslin played well for the second-straight game, routinely applying pressure on Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib, recording one sack and a few tackles for loss; he also tipped the ball which led to Dion Bailey’s second interception. Last week, Breslin harassed Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder, taking him down once. Even when Wes Horton returns, as of now, Breslin looks to be a key down the season’s stretch.
Syracuse was determined to not get beat deep by Barkley, Woods, and Lee, and USC seemed happy enough to oblige, relying on the ground game and quick screens to compile most of their yardage. When Barkley did attempt to air it out, he wasn't very successful. One of his only real deep throws around the middle of the field I can remember was intercepted by Shamarko Thomas, which really helped throw momentum in Syracuse's direction. Because Syracuse was concerned with not allowing Barkley to torch them deep, they did give up the big reverse plays and a few long runs by Silas Redd, and once Barkley, Woods, and Lee are down near the endzone it is incredibly tough to stop them. All three may end up being Top 10 picks, and you can make a case that Syracuse won't see a pair of receivers like Lee and Woods on one team in years, if not decades.