USC vs. Arizona: Matt Barkley Will Pass His Way Back into Heisman Contention

Ryan DavenportContributor IOctober 26, 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

It hasn't quite been the dream season that he envisioned, but Matt Barkley still has a fighting chance to end his decorated college career by taking home the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

Since then-No. 2 USC fell to Stanford, Barkley, who entered the season as one of the favorites for college football's most coveted trophy, hasn't been viewed as a top-five contender by many.

At that time, some such as CBS Sports' Chris Huston said was out of the conversation entirely.

Great players have great moments and Barkley had none against the Cardinal. Presented with several opportunities to lead the Trojans back, Barkley didn't come through.

As a result, his Heisman hopes are basically finished. Just like Peyton Manning could never beat Florida, Barkley could never beat Stanford and that will always hang over his career. While there is a chance every other contender in the race messes up, thus creating a reset, it has rarely happened in Heisman history.

However, since then, the senior quarterback has been solid in leading No. 9 USC to four consecutive wins, and despite his uncharacteristically lower offensive numbers, he still has an opportunity to play his way back into the race.

And that's just what Barkley will do, starting Saturday against Arizona.

The Wildcats, who have been unable to contain many of the elite offenses they've faced, are the perfect opponent for Barkley to gain some confidence against heading into USC's biggest game of the season at home against No. 4 Oregon.

It's not as if the Arizona game doesn't present a challenge for Barkley's Trojans. The Wildcats took down then-No. 18 Oklahoma State early on and played a tight game against Stanford three weeks ago.

But there's a reason why Barkley is considered to be the consensus No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft, and he'll be at his best on Saturday, just as he was during USC's last game when threw a school-record six touchdowns against Colorado.

Against the Wildcats, Barkley will continue that trend by throwing for at least a couple of scores and leading the Trojans to a feel-good victory heading into the showdown against the Ducks.

If Barkley could somehow will the Trojans to a win over Oregon and another against No. 5 Notre Dame on November 24, he'll have made a strong case to be the school's first Heisman winner since Matt Leinart.

He won't reach his gaudy offensive numbers from 2011, but he's more than capable of winning his five regular season games at USC and launching the Trojans back into the Top Five.

That all starts with Saturday, and Barkley, as he has consistently done during his college career, will rise to the occasion.