Matt Barkley: Why USC Loss to Stanford Doesn't End Heisman Hopes

Ethan GrantAnalyst ISeptember 17, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans walks off the field after the Trojans turned the ball over on downs for the last time in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Losses usually ruin Heisman bids. The No. 2 team in the nation, USC, boasted the most impressive Heisman Trophy candidate in the country, and his hopes to win the award seemingly were grounded when his Hail Mary pass as time expired fell incomplete.

USC took themselves out of national championship contention, and this certainly isn't the storybook ending Matt Barkley and the rest of the USC seniors hoped for after four years that included a stint with no bowl eligibility and NCAA sanctions.

However, all is not for naught for Barkley and his Trojans teammates, and the door hasn't been shut on his ability to win the Heisman Trophy.

His hopes took a considerable hit. After passing for 10 touchdowns and one interception in wins against Hawaii and Syracuse, Barkley was picked off twice against the Cardinal and did not register a touchdown pass on the evening.

Those are the kind of games the selection committee will look at when they start weeding out the competition and sending out invitations to New York City for the announcement of this year's winner.

But Barkley has several saving graces when it comes to his chances for the award, and it starts with his conference schedule and the lack of a clear-cut favorite behind him.


Oregon Twice/ UCLA

Barkley faces Heisman candidate DeAnthony Thomas and the Oregon Ducks in conference play this year. If he takes care of business the first time, there's a chance he could see them twice, if the two foes meet in the Pac-12 title game should Oregon knock off Stanford.

His defense will have to have a big day to stop Thomas, and he'll have to have a big performance to pull off what will be an upset of the Ducks.

Elsewhere, emerging candidate Johnathan Franklin and the UCLA Bruins will face off against the Trojans this season, and another shutdown performance by the USC defense and big Barkley day in the air will vault him ahead of these two candidates.


Other Favorites

Geno Smith is probably the favorite after Barkley's misstep, throwing for big yardage and leading the Mountaineers into the top 10 of the AP poll. But a brutal Big 12 slate would force Smith to go undefeated and make big plays in the process.

Call me a skeptic, but I don't see it. He'll have big numbers, but I think West Virginia has a hiccup in the Big 12 at some point this season, making it the equalizer with other candidates.

Behind him, who else is on your ballot? Braxton Miller is emerging, but he hasn't faced good competition. Denard Robinson was embarrassed on opening night against Alabama. Montee Ball has been so-so.

Barkley will benefit from the lack of a clear-cut leader, and he'll be up and down in the rankings based on what everyone else does, or doesn't do, going forward.


Big Weapons

Barkley was missing his center, Khaled Holmes, for the Stanford game. It doesn't seem like a big loss, but the pass protection in that crucial fourth quarter just wasn't there for USC.

When he's back, there are still two receivers on the outside that are two of the best in the country. Robert Woods and Marquise Lee are still going to be there when Barkley needs a big play, and he could still throw for 40 touchdowns on the season with a couple of big efforts in the Pac-12.



It's unlikely that Barkley will come to the front of the pack before the season is over. This loss will ruminate in the minds of voters until the ballot is cast.

But there is always a chance with a talent like Barkley, and USC will have a chip on its shoulder in both avenging this loss to Stanford and helping their QB reach the pinnacle of the college football world by hoisting the Heisman Trophy next January.