When the NCAA laid the hammer down on USC for transgressions committed in the Reggie Bush scandal, the Trojans became just an afterthought in the college football world.
Then, after starting out with a shaky 4-0 record, USC lost two heartbreaking games to Washington and Stanford, which further relegated the Trojans to the back of the news cycle.
But all the while, a quiet young leader was plying his craft, oblivious to the denigrating talk of his beleaguered team.
Though the Trojans defense certainly had (and still does have) issues, quarterback Matt Barkley just went about his business, focused laser-like on doing all he could to make USC relevant.
So far, its working.
With the Trojans 48-14 victory over the Cal Bears, where Barkley threw another five touchdowns (in the first half alone, mind you), the true sophomore added to an already-impressive 2010 campaign.
Now the young gunslinger is second in the nation in touchdown passes (20) against only four interceptions.
In terms of quarterback ratings, Barkley finds himself eighth on the list behind such luminous Heisman hopefuls as Boise State's Kellen Moore, Auburn's Cam Newton and Alabama's Greg McElroy.
But not by much.
While Moore's 190.3 rating is significantly higher than Barkley's 167.3, Barkley is only 13 points behind No. 2 Newton.
Also, Barkley has thrown for more yards than any of the top 40 quarterbacks in the country, save two (Baylor's Robert Griffin and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden)
All the while leading a Trojan team that was devastated in the offseason with the NCAA sanctions and defections which left USC's roster depleted.
While the Trojans football program crumbled around him, Barkley called his boys together for offseason workouts.
If leadership was a quantifiable trait, Barkley would be leading the country in this department, too.
Yet, when talk turns to Heisman hopefuls, Matt Barkley's name is nowhere to be found.
Sure, the Trojans are not bowl-eligible, and they have lost two games.
But neither of these detrimental attributes are Barkley's fault.
While such touted players as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor (his 158.0 quarterback rating ranks 18th in the country) continue to garner Heisman support, Barkley toils in relative obscurity.
Not that it matters to young Matt.
Barkley's only concern is for the team, not personal accolades.
He would be satisfied giving up all of his gaudy numbers for a couple more wins.
But even though Barkley would never sound his own horn for personal awards, the fact of the matter is that he should at least be considered.
Of course, if Barkley can lead the Trojans to a victory over mighty Oregon in two weeks, his name will once again draw national interest.
And if the rest of the season for Matt Barkley mirrors the first seven games, the Heisman talk may begin in earnest.
And it will be well deserved.
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