Against Hawaii: Matt Barkley threw the ball…a lot. In just over one half of play (he only led one drive in the third quarter), Barkley attempted 38 passes. This was in a game that required no extra passing because the outcome was never in doubt.
What this means for Syracuse: Matt Barkley will continue to throw the ball…a lot. Lane Kiffin makes no bones about playing to his strength. There are no reins on Barkley and the air attack. There may be talk of balance, but Kiffin’s philosophy is passing to set up the run, so expect to see Barkley continue to drop back far more often than he hands off. Unfortunately for the Orange, this does not play to their strength. Last year they ranked 98th in the country in pass defense and 84th in pass efficiency defense.
Against Hawaii: Marqise Lee was unstoppable, racking up 290 total yards and two touchdowns. The Warriors tried to take Robert Woods out of the game by being physical, but he still picked up several key pass interference calls and quietly snatched two touchdowns.
What this means for Syracuse: Pick your poison. Lee laughed in the face of any potential sophomore slump, Woods picked up where he left off, and Barkley made no attempt to disguise the fact that these two are his favorite toys – he didn’t complete a pass to any other wide receiver. Syracuse corner back Brandon Reddish got a rude welcome to college football last year when Lee burned him for a 44-yard touchdown, so he and the Orange secondary may be having nightmares right about now.
Against Hawaii: The Trojan offensive line did well in pass protection, but struggled to open holes for the running backs, who gained just 91 yards combined.
What this means for Syracuse: The strength of the Syracuse defense is on the line so there is some cause for concern regarding the match up in the trenches. Barkley enjoyed strong protection against the Warriors but he should be prepared for more pressure. The real question mark will hang over a Trojan running game that didn’t get much chance to shine in the opener. Kiffin and Barkley may love to air it out, but after the game even Kiffin bemoaned the lack of an effective ground game. The Orange will provide a much stiffer test if the pass-happy head coach tries to get his running backs more involved in week 2. It will all come down to the offensive line imposing themselves on the Syracuse front line, something they didn’t do against the weaker Hawaii squad.
Against Hawaii: USC’s defense gave up 208 yards passing and afforded Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder a 61.5% completion rating.
What this means for Syracuse: The numbers may be inflated by a second-half defense that heavily featured back-ups and freshman, however, when Hawaii had success on offense (even in the first half) it was through the air. Receivers, especially covered by the corners opposite Nickell Robey, were given room to work and were wide open for catches more often than is comfortable. In Ryan Nassib, Syracuse has a veteran signal caller who threw for 470 yards and four touchdowns against Northwestern. TJ McDonald and his teammates in the secondary will be tested.
Against Hawaii: The Trojan defensive line was a terror, netting five sacks, forcing a fumble and abusing Schroeder all night.
What this means for Syracuse: Coming into the season, the biggest questions for USC centered around the defensive line. That unit, especially newcomer Morgan Breslin, shut up a lot of the doubters. It was a better performance than anyone predicted and the effectiveness of young players was a great sign for the future. However, Hawaii’s offensive line may be the weakest that the Trojans will face this year. The D-line will be going into the Syracuse game on a high, but all eyes will still be on them wondering if the Hawaii performance was a fluke.