USC Football: 3 Things to Expect from Matt Barkley vs. Cal

Erik Cotton@ ISeptember 21, 2012

USC Football: 3 Things to Expect from Matt Barkley vs. Cal

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    The USC Trojans probably cost themselves a shot at a national championship when they lost at Stanford last week. Matt Barkley's poor play was a big factor in the final result.

    What can we now expect from him heading into this week's matchup with Cal?

    The Golden Bears enter this game 1-2. They're coming off a solid performance in defeat to Ohio State. The Trojans, as mentioned, are trying to regroup after their 21-14 loss to Stanford in which they failed to score in the second half.

    Are we going to see the USC team that combined for 91 points in their first two wins? If not, are we going to see the team that looked like a "pretender" in their loss to the Cardinal?

    More importantly, will Matt Barkley regain his Heisman-hopeful form or will he continue to struggle against his in-state rival?

    We're going to look at three different things to expect out of Barkley heading into Week 4 of the college football season.

1. He Won't Complete Less Than 50 Percent of His Passes Again

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    It's safe to say that the Stanford Cardinal have Matt Barkley's number.

    He is 0-4 against them in his career. Rarely do you see a four-year starting QB struggle so mightily against a conference opponent.

    Barkley completed only 20 of 41 passes and threw two interceptions. He was sacked five times and hardly looked like the QB who most have pegged as the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft.

    Daryle W. Hier of Yahoo! Sports gave these observations:

    The Trojan running game has been poor. But the big area of concern for USC must be their offensive line who missed their injured all-star center Khaled Holmes but also missed way too many assignments against Stanford. Quarterback Matt Barkley will play better versus the Bears. How do I know? He just played his worst game since maybe when he was a freshman.

    Cal's defense isn't terrible, but this team isn't as good as Stanford. Look for Barkley to rebound with a big performance on Saturday.

2. He'll Re-Establish Himself as a Heisman Favorite

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    No player has ever won a Heisman Trophy based on three games. Barkley has a lot working in his favor as far as remaining in the hunt for the rest of the season is concerned.

    For one, as we touched on earlier, he's a four-year starter. USC is a marquee TV draw and their remaining schedule includes four games against ranked opponents. That means he's going to be playing big games in front of national audiences.

    Barkley will look to right the ship this week vs. Cal. The Trojans have owned this rivalry over the last several years and there's nothing indicating a change in the outcome is in the cards for Saturday night.

    Look for him to put up 35-plus points and throw for well over 300 yards. He knows what's at stake. Not only is the Heisman competition heating up, but he knows NFL people are starting to intently watch every pass he throws.

3. He'll Lead USC to a Convincingly Easy Victory

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    The last time these two teams played a close game, Aaron Rodgers was still at Cal. USC has beaten the Golden Bears eight straight times. The average score in those games has been 29-10.

    Sure, the Bears only lost 35-28 on the road to the Buckeyes last week. It was a good showing. However, they're about to play their second consecutive road game vs. a Top-25 opponent. 

    Combined with the fact the Trojans are in a bad mood after an early-season loss that could eliminate their BCS hopes, and this game has blowout written all over it. 

    USC's recipe for success will be pretty simple—protect Barkley like your life depends on it. Give him time to do what you know he can do. 

    More than anything, fans and teammates alike should trust in him. You don't start at QB for four straight years at a program like USC without being able to overcome some adversity.

    Matt Barkley will do that in a big way this weekend vs. Cal.