USC Football Travels To New Jersey To Face Syracuse

    Matt Barkley

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    The pre-season No. 1-ranked USC football team will make its first visit to the New York City area since 2000 when it faces Syracuse in 82,566-seat MetLife Stadium. The game is being dubbed as the inaugural "New York's College Classic" as Troy is taking its act to Broadway (check out USC's WE PLAY digital billboards in Times Square).

    It is the second time the Trojans and Orange have played each other in East Rutherford, N.J., and the fourth time the Trojans have played there, but all those games were in the adjacent former Giants Stadium. It is just the fourth meeting between the schools and Troy has won them all, including last year's Coliseum game. Although this is a neutral site contest hosted by Syracuse, USC has won a school-record 14 consecutive non-conference road games (that figure does not include 9 neutral site victories and a neutral site loss).

    These current Trojans are playing in the home of 5 former USC players now on the rosters of the NFL's Jets and Giants. USC opened the 2012 season with a dominating home victory over Hawaii in which the offense was electric and the defense was stifling. USC QB Matt Barkley, the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Saturday, threw for 4 TDs and 300-plus yards last weekend, while 2011 Freshman All-American WR Marqise Lee had almost 300 all-purpose yards (with a 75-yard TD reception on the game's first play and a 100-yard kickoff return) and now leads the nation in that category. Among USC's other key offensive players are All-American WR Robert Woods, a Biletnikoff Award candidate along with Lee, TBs Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd (both ran for 1,000 yards last fall) and Rimington Trophy nominee C Khaled Holmes. USC has scored at least 30 points in its last 9 games.

    The Trojan defense, which had 4 takeaways against Hawaii and held the Warriors under 300 total yards, features such standouts as All-American S T.J. McDonald and CB Nickell Robey (both are Thorpe Award candidates) and 2011 Freshman All-American LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard.

    Syracuse, which went 5-7 in 2011, raced back from a 22-point third quarter deficit last Saturday at home by scoring 38 unanswered points only to see Northwestern score a game-winning TD in the final minute. The Orange is in its final season of play in the Big East before heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. Head coach Doug Marrone's squad is led by 3-year starting QB Ryan Nassib, the nation's total offense leader who set SU season records for completions, attempts, passing yards and passing TDs in 2011, WRs Alec Lemon, the Orange season receptions recordholder who is approaching the career mark, and Marcus Sales (third nationally in receptions), SS Shamarko Thomas, LB Marquis Spruill and DT Deon Goggins. SU leads the nation in passing offense and is ninth in total offense (at almost 600 yards). Syracuse sports a couple familiar names to Trojan fans: offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (son of former USC head coach Paul Hackett) and athletic director Daryl Gross (a longtime USC athletic department administrator).

    The game will be shown live nationally on ABC-TV.