"I just want to make sure our guys understand, we are going to play a really good team," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said, "a team that very easily should have won that game by a lot."
In the loss to Northwestern, Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib had a career day, falling 30 yards short of a 500-yard passing day.
"This is a very good team," Kiffin said, "a team that to me looks a lot better on defense than they were a year ago and extremely explosive on offense, obviously in the passing game, they lead the country in passing yards."
The Trojans will work to counter the passing game of Syracuse by stepping up their efforts in the secondary, an area Kiffin says needs improvement after their performance against Hawaii. "I don't think we made many plays in the secondary on the ball in that game," he said. "We gave up more yards than we should have to Hawaii. Here's a quarterback who is setting school records, so like I said, it's a huge challenge this week."
It will also be a challenge for the Trojans to stay focused as they travel across the country for their first road game, coming off a win in which they built a significant first-half cushion.
"This is our second game together," Kiffin said. "Every year is a new year, so we've got to make sure our guys don't think they are better than they are just because they were ahead 35 nothing at halftime. We're going on the road, a place we've never been before, against a very good team."
USC quarterback Matt Barkley echoed the same concerns as Kiffin regarding the possibility of the Trojans entering Saturday's game overconfident after their season opening lopsided win. "You just want to make sure that you're overly cautious about making sure it doesn't happen," Barkley said after practice. "I don't think there are guys on our team that will let that happen."
This is the first time USC will travel to the New York area since 2000. It is the fourth meeting between Syracuse and the Trojans, USC dominating the series 4-0.
USC fell to No. 2 in the latest AP Poll, with Alabama moving to No. 1. "I didn't watch any of the game because we can't, but from what I heard, they played a really good Michigan team in a big matchup and played really well," Kiffin said of Alabama claiming the top spot, "so, whatever. (I) don't care."
Odds are you noticed the new college football rule over the weekend, if a player's helmet is knocked off, they must sit out a play. The Trojans prepared for this new rule all of fall camp, making sure helmets were fastened down. "I think our equipment crew has always done a good job on that for the most part," Kiffin said. "We have talked to our players a lot about it, about making sure that not only are they buckled, but they're not in a loose format like kids wanted sometimes."