USC is looking for its second win in a season they hope will end with a national championship. Syracuse is looking to avenge a 42-41 loss to Northwestern in Week 1.
Oh boy. Things could get ugly in a hurry for Syracuse in this one.
While few folks will actually predict a win for Syracuse in this one, there are plenty of intriguing talking points that accompany this game nonetheless. So let's not delay—it's game preview time!
When: Saturday, September 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Watch: ABC and ESPN2
Listen: Sirius 86 and 91
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line: USC (-26.5), according to Bovada.
This isn't so much about how good you think USC is—we all know they are one of the top teams in the country—but rather about how bad you think Syracuse will be.
What's your play?
If you think the Orange will get stomped in this one, lay the points. If you think they're respectable enough to only lose by three touchdowns and a field goal, take the points with the 'Cuse and hope the game doesn't devolve into a blowout.
My thoughts? Syracuse gave up 42 points to Northwestern. Unlike the Wildcats, USC won't allow 'Cuse to score anywhere close to 41 on Saturday. This could get ugly fast, so lay the points with the Trojans.
There's the possibility that USC could reach this number on its own. There's also the possibility the Trojans win 56-0. See the risk?
I would take the under. If USC goes up big early and takes players out, there's little incentive for them to run up the score. After leading Hawaii 35-0 at halftime, they only outscored them 14-10 in the second half. I'm guessing this game will play out similarly and finish in the 45-14 range.
USC Injuries (via USA Today)
LB Lamar Dawson, Undisclosed, Questionable
DE Wes Horton, Undisclosed, Questionable
LB Dion Bailey, Leg, Questionable
CB Brian Baucham, Concussion, Questionable
TE Christian Thomas, Hip, Questionable
Syracuse Injuries (via USA Today)
TE David Stevens, Lower Body, Probable
WR Alec Lemon, Lower Body, Questionable
RB Steve Rene, Undisclosed, Questionable
TE Ron Thompson, Undisclosed, Doubtful
WR Adrian Flemming, Undisclosed, Doubtful
For USC, getting to the National Championship game is the ultimate goal. The only way to guarantee a berth in the big game is to go undefeated. A loss to Syracuse would probably put them at a major disadvantage when compared to other one-loss teams once the BCS rankings are unveiled.
As for Syracuse, they don't really have any BCS hopes, so this one is mostly about trying to secure a crazy upset and, if nothing else, trying to avoid embarrassment against the stacked Trojans.
Keys to USC Win
Honestly, if USC plays up to its potential, this one should be a blowout. With players like Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Silas Redd on offense, there is little reason why the Trojans shouldn't put 40 or more points on Syracuse.
Defensively, USC needs to contain the Syracuse passing game. Last weekend, quarterback Ryan Nassib was 44-of-65 with 470 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. If USC can stymie the Syracuse passing game, this one will get ugly for the Orange.
Keys to Syracuse Win
Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
I kid, I kid. For one, Syracuse needs to limit the amount of big plays they allow. Per the Associated Press (via ESPN), last season "the Orange allowed 16 touchdowns on runs of at least 20 yards and passes of at least 25 yards."
USC had two such plays last week. Uh oh.
For another, they'll need to win the turnover battle. The team's three turnovers against Northwestern were costly.
Finally, they need to be better on special teams. They not only gave up an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown to Venric Mark last week, but they also allowed him to get loose on a 53-yard return (though he didn't score on that one).
Oh, and keep in mind that Lee had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown last week for USC. Special teams could kill 'Cuse in this one.
Of course, even if they take care of the three points listed above, they're still serious underdogs. Crazier things have happened, but for the Orange to win they'll need an epic performance (and a bit of luck) to come away with a win.
USC is way too talented to drop a game like this. Look for the Trojans to end it in the first half and cruise the rest of the way, winning 45-14.
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