After all, USC's leader under center had a dazzling campaign in 2011.
Despite the Trojans' 3-1 start in 2012, Barkley hasn't resembled the same quarterback we saw in 2011.
In Saturday's 27-7 victory over Cal, Barkley wasn't the hero; junior running back Silas Redd was. While Barkley went 22-of-34 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, Redd rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
In four games, Barkley is averaging 7.03 yards per attempt—by far the lowest mark of his USC career—and he's already thrown five interceptions. In 12 games last season, Barkley averaged 7.91 yards per attempt while tossing 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
In USC's loss to Stanford, Barkley went 20-of-41 for 254 yards (6.2 yards per attempt) and two interceptions. That was also his only game against a ranked opponent so far. Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin went so far as to say he was "puzzled" by the senior's decision making.
Kiffin said, via ESPN, "[That was] really unusual by Matt. Probably two of his worst decisions in our three years together on back-to-back plays."
This is a team vying for the national title and was ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll. Yet this is the same team that got upset by a Stanford team that was No. 21 in the nation when the two met last week.
You add the fact that Barkley has weapons all around him (Redd, receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee) and his struggles are even more perplexing.
Perhaps the loss of offensive tackle Matt Kalil to the NFL has hurt Barkley. Whatever the case, he must play better moving forward, particularly when he plays strong teams such as Oregon and Notre Dame.