- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Swagger has simultaneously become one of the most overused and important words in the college football world. Players have it, programs want it and recruits love to see it. From 2002 through 2008, the USC Trojans owned it, just as Florida State and Miami did during the previous decades. But over the past two seasons, various Pac-12 teams have relished in stealing USC's swagger.
Stanford, Oregon and Washington each posted 2-0 records against USC over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, with a handful of blowouts among those results. The Trojans now find themselves at the tail end of a four-week stretch that features those three programs. After giving Stanford everything it could handle and coming within a few breaks of posting a huge win, the Trojans dominated the Huskies in all three phases on their way to a 40-17 win that has recruits back to buzzing about USC.
Linebacker commitments Scott Starr and Jabari Ruffin have been locked into becoming Trojans for months -- well before there was any tangible proof that a bounce-back season was in the works. After watching the results on the field the past three weeks, the two can't help but take a longing look at the calendar.
"Every week I get more and more excited to be there," Ruffin said. "It's back to being the traditional USC, like they were before I even got to high school. It's all coming back."
Starr went straight for the all-important buzz word.
"The defense is playing a lot better and they are starting to play with that USC swagger," he said. "The team seems to be getting more confident and they just want it."
The talk among USC fans has been that the product on the field is becoming reminiscent of what they saw during the middle part of the Pete Carroll era, and that certainly isn't lost on the current recruits. USC's game this weekend -- against an Oregon team that has staked a claim to the swagger crown -- should go a long way toward proving just how far this USC team has come.