Despite two lackluster performances, the Trojans are off to a 2-0 start for the 10th year in a row. Only unbeaten Syracuse stands in the way of USC opening the season with a perfect 3-0 homestand. Both Minnesota and Utah were unable to find an answer for sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods and junior quarterback Matt Barkley as the dynamic duo have accounted for 279 yards and three touchdowns through the two games.
The Orange, however, might have the answer for the Trojans prolific passing attack.
In 2010, the Syracuse pass defense ranked sixth nationally, allowing just over 157 yards a game through the air. They yielded just 13 passing touchdowns all year long. Both safetys return from this unit from a year ago, Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas (no relation).
Gone are steady cornerbacks Da’Mon Merkerson and Mike Holmes, but the trio of Kevyn Scott, Keon Lyn, and Ri’Shard Anderson appear to be capable replacements. Both Scott and Anderson played roles last year despite being hampered by injuries. Lyn played in nine games in 2010 and had a great spring.
If defensive coordinator, Scott Shafer, can mix his blitzes effectively and frustrate Barkley, the Trojans mightbe forced to turn to the ground game to carry them yet again. Coming off an 8-5 campaign, Syracuse is off to a 2-0 start. If itsdefense can return to its 2010 form, it could be yet another battle that goes right down to the wire at the Coliseum.
USC must be ready to handle the experienced secondary and find ways to utilize many targets to maximize Barkley’s effectiveness.