USC vs. Stanford: Matt Barkley Proves Heisman Race Is Far from Settled

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor ISeptember 16, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans passes the ball against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I'll be the first to admit that I've been a fan of USC QB Matt Barkley winning the Heisman Trophy in 2012 for awhile now. In fact, I wrote about how the honor was Barkley's to lose. Tonight, the senior proved that, while the potential to win isn't completely shot, it's not going to be quite as easy as it once was.

Losing 21-14, Barkley sealed his fate that he will graduate from USC without having ever beaten Stanford as a starting quarterback. That stat alone is mind-boggling, but what it does to Barkley's Heisman chances are even more startling.

Saying the quarterback's chances are gone would be crazy. However, Barkley better be prepared for a much tougher road to New York City.

Tonight, the veteran showed panic in times when he needed to be calm and collected. That's understandably difficult to do when your offensive line isn't holding their own. Still, to be considered the elite of the elite, Barkley needs to find a way to work through adversity and lead his team to victory.

The loss to Stanford opens the door for many other potential Heisman candidates to make a run at it. West Virginia QB Geno Smith sits behind Barkley, according to the ESPN Experts' Poll and could very well be the top contender after tonight.

With 411 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-12 win over James Madison, Smith definitely is knocking on the door to be at the top. However, this may not necessarily be a bad thing for Barkley.

The pressure to win and to be perfect can be daunting. A loss may humble the quarterback and his team. It is still early in the season with plenty of time for growth, so Barkley is far from out of the Heisman race talk.

For a senior who chose to stay at USC for his final year, it shouldn't be too difficult to push forward through this. How the senior handles this loss will not only define his senior season at USC but whether or not his receives an invitation to New York City in December.

After all, the Heisman was and still is Barkley's, and Barkley's alone, to lose.