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Friday, September 16, 2011
5 things to watch: Syracuse-USC

By Pedro Moura




1. All about USC: The Trojans' head coach said it Thursday: This game isn't about Syracuse, it's about USC. The Trojans are favored to win by two touchdowns or more, but they'll be more focused on the tune-up aspect of the game than anything else. What does that mean, you ask? Fumbles will be severely discouraged. Defensive turnovers will be seriously encouraged. Formal try-outs will be had (See Brown, Anthony and McAllister, Drew). Remember, Arizona State looms in eight days.




2. Tyler to take control? It's not that he didn't unofficially take control of the No. 1 running back job in his 2011 debut last weekend, but Marc Tyler has the opportunity to officially become the Trojans' starter with another dominant performance this Saturday against Syracuse. As USC envisions it, Tyler will probably take the vast majority of the carries in the first half and then give way to D.J. Morgan, Dillon Baxter and Co. once the Trojans establish a comfortable lead. So, in other words, he might not get the chance to wear the Orange defense down -- which, of course, means that this is really another type of test for Tyler, who can prove he's as effective on the second series of a game as he is on the 10th.

3. Marinovich: You thought that name would never again be used to describe an active player, didn't you? Well, you thought wrong. Mikhail Marinovich, the 22-year-old brother of former USC quarterback Todd Marinovich, is in his third year starting at defensive end for the Orange. He's a legitimate player, one with six career sacks and two fumble recoveries. And he'll be even more important than usual this week for Syracuse, as the Orange will be missing perhaps their best defensive player in Marinovich's partner at end, senior Chandler Jones. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he receives in the Coliseum.

4. Sacks, sacks, sacks: USC's averaging three of them through two games this season, a respectable number but not quite what the Trojans envisioned. Can they push that average up near four with a four- or five-sack performance against the Orange? Devon Kennard hasn't recorded one yet this year. Neither has Wes Horton. Nick Perry's been great, as expected, and DaJohn Harris has been great too, in a surprise, but there's still a lot of room for growth from the defensive line as a unit. One of the Trojans' two sacks against the Utes was Hayes Pullard's mammoth stop of Jordan Wynn 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. It's hard to get that kind of distance on a sack by a defensive lineman D-line sack

5. Gelling as a line: It's hard to do, especially with the Trojans auditioning their third different starter at left guard this week in freshman Marcus Martin. But it must happen, especially in a game like this. The hole between Matt Kalil and Khaled Holmes on the line needs to be capably filled, or at least somewhat-capably, and it needs to happen sometime soon, before the bulk of the Pac-12 schedule hits, preferably. Maybe Abe Markowitz will be the answer. It looks like he might be able to play some Saturday as he attempts to return from a mysterious foot injury, and it could be perfect timing as he gets right just in time for the thick of the Trojans' schedule.