USC Football: Matt Barkley on Track to Ascend in Heisman Conversation

Amy LamareSenior Analyst IOctober 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans holds the sword  and conducts the band after the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 20,2012  in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 50-6.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Matt Barkley had a record-setting game last Saturday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when he and his Trojan team dismantled fellow Pac-12 South Division member Colorado Buffaloes, 50-6.

Along the way, Barkley broke his own USC record for most TD passes in a single game (six) and set the Pac-12 record for most TDs with his 100th thrown early in the game. He also broke former UCLA Bruin QB Rick Neuheisal’s completion efficiency record in the Colorado game.

Barkley also went 19-of-20 for 298 yards with his lone incompletion coming on a dropped pass from RB Curtis McNeal.

While Barkley’s struggles in the first half of the season may have tarnished his Heisman chatter, the way he lit up the (admittedly hapless) Colorado defense on Saturday should start his ascent back to the forefront of the discussions.  

If Barkley continues to play the way he did last Saturday, well, he can book his trip to New York in December.

Consider the teams the Trojans face the next five weekends: Arizona, Oregon, ASU, UCLA and Notre Dame. If Barkley handles those defenses masterfully, there is no reason why he shouldn’t overtake Geno Smith and Collin Klein (does the Big 12 even play defense?) as well as SEC contenders (does the SEC have a passing game?) to claim the 2012 Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Like Carson Palmer a decade ago (who didn’t enter the Heisman discussion until late in the season), five big games in the second half of the season could catapult Barkley to the top of the heap of contenders. 

It doesn’t hurt that the high-profile, ranked teams the Trojans have ahead of them provide the perfect stage to woo Heisman voters, either. If Oregon and Notre Dame enter their games at USC undefeated and Barkley has epic games—sign, seal and deliver that trophy.

After the September 15 loss at Stanford, Barkley’s Heisman hopes seemed to be dashed. Which, come on, is ridiculous. Everyone has an off day, even a Heisman contender. In the wake of Barkley’s fall from proverbial grace, WVU’s Geno Smith started to dominate the conversation with impressive numbers.

However, were they really all that impressive when you consider the complete lack of defense typically played in the Big 12? The same, by the way, could be said for Kansas State’s Collin Klein. While Klein’s numbers are impressive—he’s second in the nation in passing efficiency and ranks in the top 10 in completion percentage—he has yet to face Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and Texas —who have all had half a season (or more) to study just how to dismantle Klein.  

To Klein’s advantage, and much like Carson Palmer in 2002 and Robert Griffin III last year, he’s come out of relative obscurity to take command of the Heisman conversation.

However, if Matt Barkley dominates his last five games as a Trojan, his goodwill and notoriety should move him past Klein in the race. And when it comes right down to it, Barkley is just a better choice for the Heisman.

For one thing, Barkley is a more of a pro-style, traditional quarterback who has thrown the ball 74 more times than Klein has. This disparity in the number of passes thrown helps to make the Kansas State senior appear to be a more efficient passer.

Consider also that four of the top five quarterbacks in passing efficiency are from the Big 12. Does this mean the Big 12 has the best QBs in college football? Heck no, far from it. It is, once again, the total lack of defense that conference plays.

Meanwhile, out west, the Pac-12 plays some pretty tough defense and is one of the top two conferences in the nation this season. Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon and USC put up defenses that can hold the best of the best this year. 

If Barkley were playing in the Big 12, his numbers would be off the charts, legendary, the kind of stuff sportscasters and sportswriters would not be able to stop talking about. Instead, week in and week out, Barkley and the Trojans face some of the toughest defenses in college football.

Matt Barkley and the USC Trojans have a chance to beat two Top Five teams at home, which should not only place USC back in the national title talk, but should all but seal the Heisman for Barkley.

Sure, that is a lot of what ifs—but what if it all falls into place? It would be a fitting end to a great USC career for Matt Barkley.