Matt Barkley: Hype & Hyperbole Machine Adds New Cog in Stewart Mandel of

Midwest Sports FansAnalyst ISeptember 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans smiles on the sidelines during the game against the San Jose State Spartans on September 5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Trojans won 56-3.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Well, the Matt Barkley hype machine just keeps chugging along, gaining new cogs seemingly with every passing day.

Less than 48 hours after reading ESPN’s Heisman Watch, in which they tab Barkley as a potential candidate should USC beat Ohio State, I stop by and am met with the following front page image:

So, not only is the true freshman Matt Barkley apparently in the running for the Heisman Trophy after one ho-hum game against San Jose State, now he is being compared to perhaps the greatest quarterback in the history of the sport.

Here is a taste of the article from Stewart Mandel, whose opinions I usually respect:

"That’s when it hits you. He reminds you of someone. Not any quarterback you’ve covered in college, not any quarterback playing today, but a similarly shaped quarterback who, as a 13-year-old, you watched on your parents’ television as he calmly led his team downfield for a game-winning Super Bowl drive.

It’s like you’re looking out at a young Joe Montana."

The hyperbole is mind-boggling.

As I wrote earlier this week, I have no personal vendetta against Matt Barkley, nor do I begrudge him any success that he has this season or in the future; and make no mistake, he will have lots of success and very possibly even win a Heisman Trophy during his time at USC.

As Mandel writes in the SI piece, Barkley has great size, an outstanding arm, and a confidence level that belies his young age.

But Joe Montana? Once again, I will reiterate, can we wait until the guy actually does something at the collegiate level before we anoint him with such ludicrous accolades and comparisons?

Keep in mind, Barkley completed only 54.7 percent of his passes as a high school senior and threw 18 INTs against 23 TDs. His team, famed high school sports powerhouse Mater Dei, went 8-4 and lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

If Barkley is potentially the best college player in America as a freshman, and comparable to an NFL Hall of Famer, shouldn’t he have been able to lead his team to a title while in high school? He never did.

Football is the ultimate team sport, so perhaps that’s unfair to expect. But 54.7 percent and 23:18? Barkley was far better as a junior when he threw 35 TDs against nine INTs and completed 63 percent of his passes. He was also named Gatorade High School Player of the Year.

But where was the consistency? If he is at a pro level already, as Mandel’s article quotes one of Barkley’s tutors as saying, what accounted for his significant drop as a senior?

I know that people are now going to think I’m on some Matt Barkley crusade and hate the kid. I don’t. I’m not a big fan of his cockiness, but whatever. He is who he is, and that confidence/arrogance/cockiness will probably make him an S.C. legend some day.

But 2009 is a great year for veteran QBs in college football, and Matt Barkley does not deserve this level of attention. Among the many who do:

  • Tim Tebow, perhaps the greatest player in college football history, is a senior. 
  • Colt McCoy, perhaps the greatest QB in the storied tradition of Texas football, is a senior. 
  • Sam Bradford, a record-setting former Heisman winner, came back to school. 
  • Jevan Snead had to transfer from McCoy’s shadow to find his fit at Ole Miss and now may challenge Bradford as the top QB selected in next year’s draft. 
  • A lightning fast sophomore named Robert Griffin is making Baylor relevant for the first time since J.J. Joe was under center. 

I could go on.

These are the players, the ones who have achieved something significant as collegians, who deserve the attention being heaped on Barkley.

If he leads USC to a road win over Ohio State and plays great, fine. He’ll finally have something worth hyping. As it is, I’d rather hear about the great QBs in college football who have done something…not a true freshman who had a sub-par senior season in high school and who has nothing but a win over San Jose State under his belt.

I’ve changed my mind about this weekend’s game though. I’m not rooting against Barkley when he goes into the Horseshoe. I’ll watch objectively. If he’s everything he’s being made out to be, he’ll go 20-25 for 250 yards, three scores, and the Trojans will win a tough one on the road.

He still won’t be worth mentioning in the same breath as Tebow-McCoy-Bradford, but at least there will be a little bit of legitimacy to all the overblown (to this point) hype.

And since it has become clear that such hype and hyperbole is inevitable, I’d rather it be somewhat warranted. There certainly won’t be any way to escape it.

Either way though…the next Joe Montana? He hasn’t even proven yet that he’s the next Tim Tebow or the next Colt McCoy or, hell, even the next Robert Griffin.

Until he can enter those conversations, how about we wait just a minute before comparing him to Hall of Famers.