'Trap' games loom this weekend

Updated: September 22, 2004, 1:18 PM ET
By Todd McShay | Scouts, Inc.
At first glance, the final weekend of September looks like a chance for most top teams to catch their breath before heading into a rugged October. But in some cases, that kind of thinking could be costly. Our scout takes a look at what the top teams and top individuals face this weekend.

1. USC Trojans (3-0)

Last week: 1
Next: at Stanford (2-0)
USC TrojansThere's never been a question of talent at USC, but after stumbling through its opener against Virginia Tech, we couldn't help but wonder if the team was going to jell and mature quickly enough -- especially at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive end and cornerback -- to make a serious run at the Orange Bowl.

Last week's 42-10 win at BYU doesn't mean a whole lot in itself, but if you study the progression of this team through its first three wins, it's hard not to notice the improvement. The Trojans' offensive line is much more stable, and WRs Steve Smith and Chris McFoy are finally starting to make plays. Not surprisingly, offensive coordinator Norm Chow has quickly adjusted to Reggie Bush's versatility and is finding unique ways to get the ball into his hands in space. Furthermore, the defense is starting to get more big plays from guys like LBs Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed and DTs Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, who were quiet in that first game.

Stanford is undefeated (2-0) to start the season, and it has had a week to prepare for the Trojans' visit, but don't expect a letdown from Pete Carroll's team, as it still has a bye week before the Oct. 9 rematch with Cal. This is, however, USC's last chance to tune up and build confidence before its biggest game of the season, so it will be important to avoid taking a step backward.

Todd McShay

ESPN Senior Writer