After a less than inspiring performance in USC’s shocking Week 3 loss to Stanford, Trojan superstar QB Matt Barkley needs a salvation-type performance in Week 4’s clash with Cal.
Barkley stormed out of the 2012 gates in the Trojans’ opening games vs. Hawaii and at Syracuse by posting combined numbers of 46/68 (67.6 percent) for 559 yards, 10 TDs and only one pick.
These numbers dropped considerably to 20/41 (48.8 percent) for 254 yards and two picks in last week’s 21-14 drubbing by a young Cardinal team.
Though the loss obviously will hurt both Barkley’s chances at winning USC’s first Heisman since Matt Leinart took the prize in 2004 and the Trojans' first national title since they won it all in 2005, the race for each high honor is far from over.
In order to salvage either or both of these lofty goals for 2012, Barkley must rip it up the rest of the season and that all starts with a stellar performance vs. Cal later today.
The good news for both Barkley and the Trojans is that the 1-2 Golden Bears rank No. 95 nationally in scoring defense thus far this season (they’ve given up 32.3 points per game) and they are No. 87 vs. the pass (allowing an average of 257 passing yards per game).
And this can further be put into perspective by pointing out that, thus far, Cal has played Nevada (lost 31-24), FCS Southern Utah (won 50-31) and No. 12 Ohio State (lost 35-28).
This all means that if Barkley needs a game where he can throw lights out, this may be that game.
What Matt Barkley needs from his USC teammates to get back on track is fairly simple. First, the Trojans must improve on third-down conversions, as they were only 1-13 last week in the loss to Stanford—a dismal display that dropped USC to a No. 112 national ranking on the season.
Secondly, the Trojans “D” must step up to the plate and improve on its No. 95 ranking in rushing defense, a mark that was made fairly obvious last weekend when Cardinal RB Stepfan Taylor blitzed for 153 yards and one score on 27 carries.
As far as how Cal matches up with this inherent weakness, the Golden Bears rank No. 35 nationally in rushing yards and average over 200 yards per game on the ground.
Next, USC must limit mistakes, as it is currently the No. 110-ranked team in the FBS in terms of penalties per game with an average of 76.3 yards lost to infractions.
What Barkley has far less control over is the questionable return of USC senior center Khaled Holmes, who was replaced last week by redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi, whose first career start didn’t necessarily go swimmingly.
If Holmes is not back today, which is doubtful, then Barkley’s goal of redemption becomes that much more difficult.
If Matt Barkley is to secure a place in the front row of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City this December, he must first have a solid performance against Cal and then continue to dominate through the eight games that remain on USC’s slate.
A Pac-12 title and BCS berth certainly wouldn’t hurt either.