Whitney's Weekly Wrap

With a 3-0 record and a No. 23 ranking in tow, do the USC Trojans have enough confidence to ride into Sun Devils Stadium Saturday and bring home their first road win of 2011?

From two escape wins and one dominant win, the number one takeaway from the 23rd ranked team in the nation is their ability to improve week-to-week.

USC's receiving core has realized their opportunity to make plays is now , while defenses use double coverage on Robert Woods, who currently leads the nation in receptions (33).

The playmakers are emerging, Barkley to Woods is stronger than ever and even the redshirt freshmen are starting to feel like they're experienced.

But for three consecutive weeks, these players have seen rowdy crowds donned mainly in cardinal and gold. They've smiled as Traveler trots near their sideline. They raise their hands when they hear that loud bell sound as opponents face a third down.

On Saturday, the fans these USC players see will wear a different color of red. And there won't be any horse, torch nor anything reminiscent of The Coliseum.

There will only be heat, steaming from the House of Heat and players like ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

The Trojans thought Minnesota's MarQueis Gray would be weapon. USC's young unit hasn't seen anything yet.

"You got to account for him, get on him, focus on him. He's like a great receiver or running back, he's so explosive in the plays he can make," Kiffin said in Sunday's conference call. "You got to know where he is at all times."

Matt Barkley has been sacked twice in three games. That number could double Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium if Burfict exposes the quarterback's line, which features three players who have never started a road game.

And despite ASU missing key defensive end Junior Onyeali to a knee injury in last week's game against Illinois, Davon Coleman came in and stepped up in his place.

But right now their quarterback Brock Osweiler isn't feeling too pleased with himself, saying he was incredibly disappointed about the high number of turnovers he had in Saturday's game.

No doubt Osweiler, the renowned Dennis Erickson, Burfict et al will come swinging in the Trojans' second conference matchup this season to bring them a victory after a bitter midwest taste in their mouths.

But, as Kiffin acknowledged Sunday, some players actually play better when their "backs are to the wall" in road games. A lot of pressure can come off when family and friends aren't there.

One player the Sun Devils expect to play well no matter their advantage is Trojan receiver Robert Woods. While the Serra High product only had three receptions for 18 yards against ASU last season, Woods has been cardinal hot in 2011. If ASU plans to put two defenders on him, look for others to step up.

"If we get to the point where we have someone on the other side like [Woods], that's where you become 2003, 2004, 2005 and now [the opposing] defense doesn't have an answer," Kiffin said. "So that's always our goal here is to build this team like we did it before."

Two players who made an impact against ASU in 2010 were Marc Tyler (averaged 9.9 yards a carry, had 5 catches for 32 yards and a touchdown) and Dillon Baxter (17 carries for 52 yards, 4 grabs for 26 yards). If USC can get both kinds of offense going, with production in the backfield plus Woods and a second receiver making plays down field, even a talented ASU defense might be without answers on their home turf.

Well, that's the Trojans' goal, anyway.


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