Throughout the past two years of college football, Andrew Luck has transformed into the darling of all quarterback prospects.
He has been labeled the replacement for one of the best quarterbacks of all time, among many other things. Heisman preseason favorite, easy lock for the No. 1 pick and having through-the-roof expectations, Luck is considered the top quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.
With all the hype over Luck, and the certainty of him being the first overall pick in the draft, it's clear he will be the best quarterback to come out of this class. Or is he?
Enter Matt Barkley, known as the "other" college quarterback in California. While leading the probation-stricken USC Trojans to a 10-win season, Barkley has slowly but steadily gained steam in the Heisman race, with his numbers rivaling, if not surpassing Luck's.
But looking past the Heisman, the real question is how Barkley will do in the pros. Or an even more specific one: How will he compare to Luck in the NFL?
While it may seem crazy, he may end up being better than Luck. Here's some reasons why...
Matt Barkley is highly likely to move on to the NFL next season. But think about if he stayed another year.
His stats are as good as Luck's, and he's a year younger. He would top most of the experts' draft boards in 2013, and he would actually get to lead USC into a bowl game.
The pay may still be too good to pass and chance an injury, but USC would be the Rose Bowl favorites (if not more), and he would be payed even more as the first overall selection in 2013.
With the drastic improvement this season, another year could pay dividends when he transfers over into the NFL. He is most certainly NFL-ready, but another year would put him over the top.
Maybe even over Andrew Luck.
Barkley worked a lot in the offseason on his throwing motion, and he has clearly exhibited that the hard work payed off.
Barkley's mechanics are flawless, with a high release and a quick motion to go with it. Luck has been credited with having a great release on his throws, but he occasionally has "something extra" attached in his windup.
At Stanford, Luck hasn't had to worry about the little glitch, which doesn't even seem to be part of his actual motion of throwing. But in the NFL, anything to slow down the release of a pass is a major plus for the opponent's defense.
Though neither have much problems at all with their throwing motion, Barkley continues to get better and better week in and week out with his mechanics and in other aspects (reading the defense pre-snap, going through progressions, etc.).
This is all contributes to the reason why Barkley is on the rise.
What do they all have in common? None of them have an All-World quarterback. Luck is all but a cinch to replace Manning in Indy. But actually "replacing" him will be a tough task.
Meanwhile, Barkley will be joining a Miami team that has had horrible quarterback play ever since Dan Marino retired at the turn of the century.
Though I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Luck does good things in Indy, comparing him to Manning over his career may diminish his true success.
This won't be the same for Barkley, with not near as much pressure as what Luck will have, on top of Luck being the No. 1 pick.
Though the Colts may clean house to bring in a coordinator that's fits Luck's style, there are also plenty of teams that would suit Barkley from the scheme standpoint.
The Seahawks and Redskins (both at 4-7 and could be drafting high) both run the West Coast offense, which is the same as at USC. Seeing as both of those teams may draft in the top 10, there's a chance one of them nab Barkley if the Colts trade Luck to Miami.
Seeing as the only team below these two that don't have a set QB is Miami (suggesting the Colts will have Luck or Manning), the likelihood raises even more.
Staying on the West Coast, which would be big for Barkley, he would be reunited with a man he knows well—Pete Carroll.
All this could make for a much smoother transition into the NFL for Barkley, which may not be quite the same for Luck in Indy.
Could Matt Barkley possibly just as good in the NFL as Andrew Luck?
Something I saw in the Stanford-Oregon game, and have seen many times when watching Andrew Luck, is his decision making when he is about to be hit.
Sometimes, whether by supreme confidence in his ability or whatever else it may be, Luck will throw the ball in a sea of people rather than throw it away or take a sack.
Sometimes he'll be near the sideline, about to get hit, and try to make an almost impossible play, rather than throw the ball out-of-bounds.
He also made two of these kinds of plays against the Ducks. One was a fumble that he tried to draw back and throw rather than take a sack as defenders crashed in, and the other was a throw he made while being taken down to the ground, which would have been an interception if it hadn't have been dropped.
This may be the reason he has a pair of extra interceptions more than Barkley despite having four less touchdown passes. It of course could also be partially credited for Barkley's superior wide receivers, so take it however you like.
Though Luck is as smart as they come, Barkley is not far behind, and he goes through his progressions just as well (if not better) as Luck.