USC Vs. Syracuse Preview: Spotlight On Trojans Defensive Line

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Hayes Pullard #10 of the USC Trojans celebrates the sack of Greg Townsend Jr. #93 against the Hawaii Warriors at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

USC had five sacks in their season opener against Hawaii.

The USC Trojans hope for a repeat performance from their defensive line as they travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey on Saturday to battle the Syracuse Orange in the inaugural New York's College Classic at MetLife Stadium.

The Trojans romped over the Hawaii Warriors 49-in their season opener last Saturday in Los Angeles. Although the opener was expected to be a blowout, the Trojans did impress in their main area of concern.

Getting pressure on the quarterback.

A relative unknown heading into the season, Morgan Breslin dominated the Hawaiian offensive line. Actually, every defensive lineman on USC’s roster had a ‘stand-out’ moment in the blowout game, but Breslin’s performance, which consisted of a sack and two tackles for losses, bested them all. Breslin, who came in as junior college player, replaced starter defensive end, Wes Horton, because of injury. It is safe to say Breslin will see plenty of action on Saturday.

That’s it.

Coming into the season, we all knew USC would regain its high octane offense of the USC of old. Question marks clouded over the defensive line as USC lost two starters to graduation and senior defensive end Devon Kennard to injury. Yet; the line played fast and explosive in the season opener. Yes, Hawaii’s offensive line probably ranks in the bottom half of college football, but explosive is explosive and USC will need that against Syracuse.

The Orange are led by senior quarterback, Ryan Nassib, who led a rally past Northwestern, passing for four consecutive touchdowns to take the lead in the fourth quarter, only to see his defense lose it in the last possession of the game.

Although Syracuse took the loss, Nassib’s performance was impressive. He tossed the ball to eight different receivers, including four plays of over 30 yards.

The Trojan secondary will be tested. Coach Doug Marrone figures to open the playbook to passing only as the pass to rush ratio was over 2-to-1 (65 passing plays, 30 rushing plays).

cornerback Nickell Robey and safety TJ McDonald will have their hands full again. Last year when Syracuse visited the Trojans at the Coliseum, Nassib torched USC’s secondary by throwing 37 times with 25 of them completed to five receivers. Unfortanately, ‘Cuse couldn’t come up with the big plays in the red zone.

Bottom Line

USC is going to win. The question will be, how by how much? As improved as the Syracuse’s offense may have looked against Northwestern, the defense allowed a 68% completion rate against Northwestern’s quarterbacks. Now, replace Northwestern’s quarterbacks and receivers with Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and Marqise Lee and what would you get? Coach Marrone’s fat headache.

I expect USC’s defensive line to once again dominate on the line again. Syracuse will be forced to limit the playbook on passing plays, which will open USC to scheme its defense on coverage plays. The Orange will have their moments, but USC will end it by halftime at MetLlife Stadium.


USC 54, Syracuse 17

For more news and notes on USC football, be sure to read Conquest Chronicles.

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