While most teams would be pretty satisfied with a 49-10 win to open the season, the USC Trojans are trying to make a run to the top in 2012. That means that Lane Kiffin and his staff can’t ever be satisfied, and they found plenty that needs to be worked on from their game with Hawaii before the Men of Troy take the field Saturday against the Syracuse Orange.
After watching film from their week one game, Kiffin said there was some “normal first-game sloppiness” and was not happy with the inconsistency from his offensive line. However, the biggest area of concern for Kiffin and company was the play of their cornerbacks. Filling in for the injured Torin Harris opposite Nickell Robey, Anthony Brown, Brian Baucham, and Kevon Seymour all got beat on a number of plays.
While their struggles didn’t come back to hurt the Trojans against a green and overmatched Hawaii offense, it could pose bigger concerns against the Orange on the road. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib put up monstrous numbers in his week one shootout with Northwestern. His team came up just short, losing 42-41, but Nassib impressed, completing 44 of 65 passes for 470 yards and threw four second half touchdowns to jumpstart a late rally. Kiffin broke down the Syracuse game, simply saying “Their quarterback made a ton of plays.”
Kiffin admits that his defense wasn’t tested against the Warriors, but he’s thinking that could change against the Orange. He’ll need to get his team to elevate their play to try and contain an Orange team that racked up 596 yards of offense against a Big Ten opponent. Nobody is expecting the heavily favored Trojans to slip up (since they get to go up against an Orange defense that lost despite getting almost 600 yards in support), but the Trojans are in danger of not being as dominant as they need to be when they travel east.
The Trojans have already been penalized once for not winning pretty by becoming the first team to drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the AP poll after winning a game by 35-plus points since Penn State in 1997. Alabama helped themselves by pounding No. 8 Michigan to open the season while USC looked very good instead of great against not-so-good Hawaii team.
Letting Syracuse throw for a bunch of yards and stay close on Saturday could spell big trouble for the Trojans’ chances at a BCS run. If they look unimpressive against a team slated to finish near the bottom of the Big East, they could fall for the second straight week in the poll if LSU turns in a dominant performance against Washington. That may not seem like a big deal now, but it might down the road when computers and pollsters try and sift through multiple unbeaten or one-loss teams in December.
USC can help its corners a bit by keeping Nassib and Syracuse’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense on the sidelines by finding more of a running game. While Matt Barkley put up some very nice numbers through the air against Hawaii, the Trojan running game amassed just 81 yards with a 3.5 per carry average. Last year’s starting tailback and 1,000-yard rusher Curtis McNeal saw just five carries for 10 yards. Silas Redd was the star of the backfield, rushing nine times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Kiffin will need to get both runners on track if he wants to get his running game on a roll.
While USC looked good in their blowout win against Hawaii, they need to improve to be great and make a run for the BCS title. They can start turning that corner by putting in a dominant performance against Syracuse on Saturday, though they’ll need to do more than just show up to get it done.
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