Matt Barkley's Methodical Big Game in the Big Apple Keeps Heisman Hopes on Track

Adam KramerNational College Football Lead WriterSeptember 8, 2012

Sep 8, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) throws the ball against the Syracuse Orange during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

With former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in the building, Matt Barkley took center stage in the Big Apple. It was a long journey for USC across the country to a strange East Coast, an NFL venue, a bizarre afternoon start for a West Coast bunch and an opponent in Syracuse that didn’t garner much respect.

The sky was ominous through much of the game—even delaying the start of the second half—and there was some strangeness to the entire contest. You can call it boring if you’d like, but this one was closer than most would have thought well into the third quarter.

In the end, however, USC was just too much. It wasn’t pretty, regardless of what the box score says. It wasn’t a dazzling performance that will leave the NY folks hoping their Jets team finishes with a 3-13 record and a shot at another USC quarterback in the top three in next year’s draft. OK, maybe that’s not true.

It was, however, another win for Barkley’s crew and perhaps the most workmanlike six-touchdown performance I have ever seen. This, by the way, ties the USC record for touchdowns in a game by a quarterback. It didn’t feel like it while absorbing it all, but perhaps that’s how much we’ve come to expect of Barkley and this offense.

His favorite targets, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, hauled in five of the six TDs and made it look far too easy at times.

The rest of Barkley’s stat line was solid, but not what we’ve come to expect. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 187 yards and even threw his first interception of the season. It had to come at some point, I suppose.

And so the Heisman campaign rolls along. If there were any possible way to look somewhat average in a game where you threw six touchdowns, this would be it. Our expectations have reached unthinkable heights.

The Heisman and the East Coast are a very important combination. The term “East Coast bias” comes to mind when it comes to voting for the award, because much of the voters along the Atlantic have long been asleep by the time these late Pac-12 games come to a conclusion. This isn’t the case for all voters, and certainly not applicable for a team with history such as Southern Cal, but this bias is still alive and well.

Barkley’s individual Heisman campaign didn’t need a stage like New York, but it got one. He didn’t need to pad his stats with the New York media in the building, but he did so anyway. It came against an inferior (but still capable) opponent in Syracuse, but USC avoided the cross-country letdown and Barkley was able to fill up the box score. Nothing flashy, but the blueprint remains the same.

On the other side of the country, Barkley’s main competition for the Heisman Trophy at this point—and yes, it is so incredibly early—De’Anthony Thomas continued to dazzle every time he touched the ball against Fresno State. Oregon’s flash has showcased more of the same that we saw in his freshman season, and he is asserting himself as legitimate competition to win the Heisman hardware.

Luckily, however, these two will tee off on November 3. Barkley’s six touchdowns will be long forgotten by then, and he’ll have undoubtedly have racked up plenty more in the next month and change.

The same New York media members who gathered in MetLife will be wide awake for that one, and the curtain will go up on Barkley’s true Heisman showcase.

Things have gone as planned thus far, but there’s a long way to go.