USC took the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to face the Syracuse Orange and while the Trojan faithful got, a win, was not pretty—not by any means. The Trojans looked like an early-season team. Which they clearly are, however, with the amount of talent on this team, more is expected.
The penalties were pervasive (to a point where my Facebook status said “Enough with the penalties, USC!”). The defense looked, well, like we expected them to do in all of our preseason prognostications. The offense eventually found their stride but not without a few stuttering starts first.
A win is a win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It is ironic, however, that this down-in-the-trenches, grit-your-teeth and get-the-win game happened just a week after coach Lane Kiffin proclaimed so loudly that it wasn’t enough to win, you had to win with style (via Pedro Moura of ESPN).
Where was the style?
There were moments of style. Tight end Xavier Grimble shaking off four defenders to get the touchdown. He simply would not be denied. I half-expected him to drag those four men into the end zone with him.
Wide receiver Robert Woods leaped improbably high to grab the ball for a TD while under tight double coverage. That man is insanely good in tight spaces, and his QB knows it and throws to him under nearly impossible defensive coverage.
Woods’ reverse, cutback-across-the-field, leaping-over-defenders, 76-yard run was another pretty moment.
Not so pretty was the defense. While they did hold the Orange to just 29 points, many of those 29 points were scored in troubling manners.
Offense outrunning them, running right at and through cornerback Torin Harris (who I am pretty sure couldn’t defend against a girl scout wielding a box of Thin Mints as her weapon)…it was troubling. It was more or less exactly what we thought the defensive line, especially, would be heading into the season.
As I said last week, Hawaii wasn’t a true test. But you know what? Neither was Syracuse. I’ve got news for you all—in case you didn’t hear, the Pac-12 is amazing. Wait, let me amend that, the Pac-10 is amazing, Utah and Colorado were embarrassing this weekend.
Let’s look at a quick run down of the Pac-12’s winners:
—UCLA beat Nebraska, 36-30
—Oregon State beat Wisconsin, 10-7
—Arizona beat Oklahoma State, 59-38
—Arizona State beat Illinois, 45-1
—USC beat Syracuse, 42-2
—Stanford beat Duke, 50-13
And, let’s look at the Pac-12 loser who had the balls to schedule a formidable out-of-conference opponent:
—Washington LOST to LSU, 41-3
Then, there were the Pac-12 teams who didn’t have the balls to schedule a real competitor (cough, Oregon, cough) and those that lost to teams they should have beaten:
—Oregon beat Fresno State, 42-25 (OU’s out-of-conference schedule also included Arkansas State and FCS Tennessee Tech. Way to challenge yourselves and lift the profile of the Pac-12, Ducks.)
—Washington State beat Eastern Washington, 24-20
—Cal beat Southern Utah, 50-31
—Colorado LOST to Sacramento State, 30-28
—Utah LOST to Utah State, 27- 20
Pretty good stuff there for the first group of winners who beat actual opponents. So, can we re-assess Utah’s (who displayed an offensive line so atrocious a Pop Warner team could beat them) and Colorado’s (who, just, NO) inclusion in the so-called “Conference of Champions?"
However, this is a piece about USC vs. Syracuse, so let’s look at the game's winners and losers…