The magical mystery tour of the USC Trojans move on. Except it's not a real mystery. Barring a bizarre lapse in MetLife, USC should capture it's 35 thousandth straight victory over non-conference foes not named Notre Dame.
USC and Syracuse had a closely contested battle last year, but these are much different times. USC has stayed about the same while Syracuse has overhauled a bit. The Trojans are clearly superior in the spots that will guarantee them flawless victory. The Orange are weak in the areas that they need to put pressure on the Trojans in any sort of fashion to make this game competitive. Ta-da, victory!
Syracuse is a nice team with a fun offense that should put a lot of points on any given week, but they have no chance to match up with a USC offense that can control the clock with balance and precision. The defense has lost almost all their depth on the interior, which immediately puts them at a disadvantage against one of the best offensive lines in the country. If Matt Barkley isn't being pressured, it's only a matter of time before Marqise Lee and Robert Woods get found, and then the defense will start crumbling from big play after big play.
What will be intriguing is how well the Syracuse offense does at exploiting any potential weaknesses in a thin USC defense. The offense is high-octane (470 passing yards in Week 1), but pass heavy is usually a recipe for failure, since it's highly unlikely Ryan Nassib will have quite as much time to throw against Wes Horton and George Uko as he would Northwestern's sturdy upstarts. However, if the Syracuse O-line can pass block for awhile, that does allow the Orange some opportunities to exploit some vulnerabilities that will make USC a plenty interesting study for the rest of the Pac-12.
It's not all that bad to be a case study for the number two team in the country.
SB Nation Snippets
trevor.wong of Conquest Chronicles details things to watch for USC, particularly the weakest spot on either side of the football.
Other than USC's defensive line, its other weak spot in the defense has to be the cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey. Anthony Brown, Brian Baucham and Kevin Seymour all were challenged and Hawai'i found some success throwing the ball wherever Robey wasn't occupied. Torin Harris, who started four games last season before missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, is expected to play on Saturday. Nassib's performance in Week 1 has been noted above, and if Lemon plays, then Syracuse's passing attack becomes much more lethal. Will the other cornerback be effective enough to contain Syracuse's wide receivers on the outside?
Offensively, you're going to see a much more open scheme with a bunch more weapons. If Alec Lemon plays (which is a big if), SU has a great 1-2 punch with Marcus Sales at WR. If not, we've got some young guns that can make plays, like burner Jeremiah Kobena. Ashton Broyld should see more PT and he's our Wildcat/wild card RB. Ryan Nassib likes his tight ends and he'll have two to choose from in Beckett Wales and David Stevens. If the offensive line can somehow hold off the Trojan defenders and give Nassib time, he can make plays and get these guys in position to make their own plays.
Defensively, the line might not ave the marquee name of a Chandler Jones, but I dare say it's a more balanced and deep unit across the board. The big question mark will be our secondary, which got torched by Barkley last year.
Conquest Chronicles details the weakness in depth all over the board.
Depth is certainly something to worry about, not only on defense but on offense, too. Of course it’s an issue, considering USC has 10 less scholarship players than the norm. Despite the defensive line’s performance in the home season opener against Hawai’i, I still have to consider the front-four the weakest part of the defense. As has been noted before, senior defensive end Devon Kennard needed surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. And in the first game, the other senior defensive end --- Wes Horton --- missed the game, too. Horton’s injury might not be too serious, but to miss the season opener has to raise some concern. George Uko, J.R. Tavai, Morgan Breslin and Greg Townsend Jr. all stepped up at home, but how they play on the road is something to watch for.
Those are some of the things to look out for. This game is more of a test for what USC's weaknesses could be down the road. Syracuse is the lab mouse.