5 Reasons USC Trojans QB Matt Barkley Will Win the Heisman Next Season
USC quarterback Matt Barkley surprised the country by returning for his senior season, saying his journey as a Trojan quarterback is not complete.
Barkley's decision not only inserts Southern Cal into the title race for next season, it puts himself in prime position to take the Heisman Trophy back to L.A.
There are a few candidates that will challenge the USC captain for the trophy in 2012. Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Tyrann Mathieu of LSU will most likely be heading back to New York City after coming in the top five in voting this season.
Barkley had the unfortunate experience of playing with Andrew Luck, another Heisman finalist, in the Pac-12 the past few seasons. Going into the 2011-2012 season, Luck was proclaimed the obvious front-runner for the Heisman by many people. As Luck came into the season on cloud nine, not many people knew Barkley's potential.
Now that Luck is gone and Barkley showed what he can do, the national spotlight will be on Matt Barkley next season.
Here are five reasons why the Trojans quarterback will win the Heisman in 2012.
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Not many quarterbacks can say they were a four-year starter at a major football school like Southern California.
Matt Barkley has seen it all. He has started nearly every game for the past three seasons. Anyone who has closely watched this quarterback has seen his maturity level grow each week.
Next season, much like this past season, no one will see him make bad decisions, get flustered or seem confused.
Instead, the country will see high football IQ throws along with an attitude that knows how to win big football games.
Opposing teams rarely stopped him this season. Just imagine the adjustments he will make going into his senior campaign. Those minor tweaks will produce "video game" statistics throughout the entire year.
Returning Targets and Key Players
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The Trojans were one of the youngest teams in 2011, starting 10 freshmen and sophomores.
Next season, USC will return nine players on both sides of the football, which gives the Southern Cal QB a recipe for a Heisman victory.
Wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee dominated the Pac-12 Conference last season with more than 180 combined receptions and nearly 2,500 yards receiving. Both accomplished receivers will be constant threats down the field for Barkley, helping him put up big passing numbers week in and week out.
Running back Curtis McNeal will also play a crucial role in the Heisman run for No. 7. After rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2011, defenses will have to respect the running game next season. This will open up the play action, which is Barkley's bread and butter.
Alongside tight end Xavier Grimble, the Trojans return four out of five offensive linemen, with junior Matt Kalil the only one parting from the group.
With dominant receivers who couldn't be stopped as freshmen and sophomores, a confident running back who will open up the play action and an offensive line that knows Barkley's tendencies inside and out, wouldn't one say that makes for a Heisman season?
Stats Have Drastically Improved Each Season
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If anyone wants to take lessons on how a young QB grows, just look at Barkley.
Going into his freshman year, he beat out Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp for the starting job. This was a surprise to many USC fans, but the confidence was never in question.
After posting decent numbers as a freshman, Barkley made changes that helped him accumulate better statistics in nearly every major category.
In one season, he jumped from a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15-14 to a respectable 26-12.
Not only did his TD-to-INT ration drastically improve, he also bumped up his completion percentage by three percent and his QB rating by 10 points.
Trojan fans had high expectations going into 2011 after seeing his improvements from freshman year to sophomore year. Not only did he exceed expectations, he became a national star and put USC back on the competitive map.
The junior QB threw for more than 3,500 yards while tossing 39 touchdown passes, breaking former Trojans QB Matt Leinart's Pac-10 record. Barkley shot up his completion percentage, almost cracking 70 percent, along with a 20-point increase in his QB rating.
There is no doubt this kid is on his way to breaking several USC passing records. With his constant improvements in statistics each season, Matt Barkley is on pace to put up some jaw-dropping numbers in 2012.
Will Be Competing Against Mediocre Defenses
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It's no secret the Pac-12 is not a defensive powerhouse.
If any college football fan watched the bowl season, they would have seen a subpar defense every time a member from that conference stepped on the field.
Over the course of the season, USC averaged 294.2 yards per game and 35.8 points per game, good for 15th and 16th in the country respectively.
Going into the 2012 season, the defenses have not improved. In fact, they have gotten worse. The only team to hold USC under 30 points this season was Utah and that was in Week 2 of the season.
No defense will be able to stop Barkley. He will continue to pick apart every defense he sees.
Adding another year of learning for this player is simply deadly for the opposition.
If every team got torched for more than 30 points per game this season, I'm sure we all know the damage Matt Barkley will do in conference next season.
Although he still has to make the plays, the stars will all align for Barkley to rip apart the Swiss cheese defenses of the Pac-12 next season.
Playing with Something to Prove
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Freshman year was the only year Barkley has been eligible for postseason play due to the Reggie Bush infractions.
As he stated in his press conference, he is not done with his journey as a USC QB. He has a lot to prove to everyone: the media, the country and especially the Heisman voters.
In 2011, Barkley put up more passing yards and threw fewer interceptions than Andrew Luck. So why was Barkley not at the Heisman ceremony this season?
This kid has been penalized for almost his entire career at SC. Even though he put up Heisman-worthy stats, he was denied a chance.
Watching Barkley talk at press conferences, at practices or after games this season gave Trojan fans reasons to smile.
He smells blood. Everyone can tell he has a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder. The national media gave Barkley some recognition late in the season but nothing close to what he deserved.
Barkley will play every game like he always has: smart, passionate and confident.
With his attitude, desire and determination to prove USC is back, Barkley will amaze college football fans and make sure he gets his due.
No. 7 will not rest until he brings the Heisman Trophy back to USC.