Four Burning Questions: Syracuse

Who will play in the secondary?

After Saturday’s game against Utah, USC coach Lane Kiffin intimated that changes would occur in the secondary. One thing is certain: sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey and junior safety T.J. McDonald have played well and are guaranteed to remain regulars. The other two spots in the secondary appear open to new faces. Thursday, Kiffin said junior safety Drew McAllister would see action on the third or fourth series.

Will USC be able to throw the ball effectively?

A year ago, Syracuse ranked seventh in total defense and pass defense. Through the first two games of the season, the Orange have surrendered 248 yards per game, good for 44th best in the nation. But they have already forced three interceptions. With sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods expected to draw double teams, junior quarterback Matt Barkley will be charged with spreading the ball around. Freshman tight end Xavier Grimble reeled in 5 catches for 66 yards against Utah, and he will likely play an important role against the Orange.

Is the Syracuse offense going to be one-dimensional?

With 78.5 rushing yards per game, Syracuse ranks 107th in the nation out of 120 teams. The Orange haven’t been able to create a plethora of holes for the running backs or protect the quarterback. To make matters worse, USC has done an admirable job combating the run and pressuring the quarterback. “They are playing really well,” Kiffin told reporters during the week. “They have done a good job against the run and knocking people back.”

Can the offense break out in the second half?

Through two games, the offense has scored seven points in the second half, and they have failed to score in the fourth quarter. USC had several chances to put Utah away, but they could not consistently pick up first downs and sustain drives. Additionally, Barkley’s performance has declined dramatically in the fourth quarter throughout his career. The junior quarterback has only completed 48.7 percent of his passes in the final period, compared to 65.3 percent in the first three quarters.