The USC Trojans made a rare trip to the east coast for their week two match-up played on a neutral field against Syracuse, looking to sway some of the east coast media to maybe regain some first place votes in the polls. Not even Mother Nature would hold back the Trojans in this one, as USC overcame a second half push by the upset minded Orange and a weather delayed halftime to pull away for a 42-29 victory.
Syracuse gave USC a stiffer test than many may have assumed they would. The Orange defense played well early on, especially when the Trojans attempted fourth down conversions right out of the chute, and the offense eventually found something to work with against USC's defense. Regardless of how tough Syracuse was playing it was tough to hold down the Trojans for too long. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods each scored touchdowns in the second quarter to help send the teams in to the halftime with the score 14-3 in favor of USC.
Then the weather gods had their say...
Halftime was already going to be extended to 18 minutes at MetLife Stadium, but a severe thunderstorm warning forced the game to be delayed for an extra hour and nine minutes until it was deemed safe to play again. Lane Kiffin said after the game that he was informed by the refs and stadium staff before the game that a weather delay at halftime was a realistic possibility, but he opted not to tell his players. But Barkley also said that he talked to the refs before the game and was told the same thing. Barkley also decided not to tell anybody.
When the game did resume, USC looked to have full control of the game with a second Barkley to Woods combo resulting in a touchdown to put the Trojans up 21-3, but Syracuse fought back with Ryan Nassib leading the offense down field for an answer, resulting in a short touchdown pass to Marcus Sales. The defense then rose to the occasion by intercepting Barkley on a deep pass down the middle of the field at midfield. A few plays later Prince-Tyson Gulley dashed eight years in to the end zone for a touchdown to pull within 21-16 of Syracuse.
That is as close as Syracuse got to sniffing an upset.
USC's defense then started to put the clamps on a victory and Woods came through with a huge punt return to set USC up for a short touchdown strike to build the lead back up to double-digits. USC scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, more than enough to fend off a pesky Syracuse team that scored two touchdowns in the final quarter as well.
So what did we learn about USC?
Sure, they are still a BCS championship contender. How can they not be when they have players like Barkley, Woods, Lee and Redd on offense. But they do have some concerns on defense that could become a larger issue when they face teams like Oregon and, if Saturday night was any indication, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. Any BCS championship contender will have to battle through some tough games, and USC certainly will not be an exception this season.
What we saw though was that USC has the ability to answer the challenge when put in front of them. On Saturday USC traveled across the country, played through some not-so-favorable weather against a team that also shows that they will not quit. And USC still won by 13 points.
Even when they are not sexy, they're still worth checking out.
Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com and host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast and managing editor of Nittany Lions Den. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.