I was very impressed with the way Syracuse hung with second-ranked USC, but in the end the cream rose to the top as Matt Barkley showed why he is the Heisman frontrunner and Marqis Lee and Robert Woods showed why they are the best wide receiver tandem in college football. Barkley didn’t force the issue against the game but overmatched Orange defense. He just put the ball in position for Lee (3 TD receptions) and Woods (2) to make plays in the end zone, which they did – even against double coverage. Barkley finished with six TD tosses. That was the most ever yielded by a Syracuse football team.
Still, there is much to be encouraged about if you are an Orange football fan. It’s apparent that their pass-happy offense, triggered by fifth-year QB Ryan Nassib, can put points up against anybody. SU trailed by just five points in the fourth quarter, before the Trojans superior playmakers did their thing to pull away for a 42-29 victory.
I agree with Chris Spielman, the former Ohio State/Buffalo Bills-linebacker-turned-college-football-analyst that SU has the talent to contend for a league championship in the weak Big East Conference. The Orangemen need to shore up a few things – especially on special teams, where they continue to get burned on returns at pivotal junctures. (Head coach Doug Marrone needs to rethink his decision to handle special teams chores.) This team appears to have great upside and should become better as the season progresses. Regardless what happens, they’re going to be fun to watch because of their potency on offense.
It’s a good thing Nassib isn’t on a Stephen Strasburg innings limit or he’d be shut down by mid-season. The Cuse signalcaller is averaging 55.5 passes through two games. Projected over the 12-game regular season, that computes to 666 attempts. Extrapolating his numbers over 12 games, Nassib would finish with 4,752 yards, 36 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
You may have read or heard that ESPN expert Chris Mortensen tweeted that Barkley wasn’t going to be the only NFL-caliber quarterback playing in yesterday’s game at MetLife Stadium. Yes, Nassib is starting to receive some NFL buzz and currently projects as a mid-to-late round pick. I think he has a ways to go – especially with regards to his touch passes – but he certainly is justifying the look by NFL scouts.
I have the Bills ekeing out a 20-16 victory against the Jets in their season opener today. I think Buffalo’s defense will do a decent job of bottling up the Jets run game (including wildcat QB Tim Tebow) and putting some pressure on Mark Sanchez, who statistically ranks as the worst starting quarterback vs. heated pass rushes. I also believe Buffalo will rely on a heavy dose of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller running the ball, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both backs out there together for 5-10 plays.
You can read my season-preview Bills column for WROC-TV at www.rochesterhomepage.net. I’ll be posting a fresh column off of this game and appearing on FOX 31 and Channel 8’s sportscasts at 10 and 11, respectively, so please check me out.