Matt Barkley: 5 Reasons USC Quarterback Should Have Been a Heisman Finalist

Jason Clark@jclark735Correspondent IIDecember 6, 2011

Matt Barkley: 5 Reasons USC Quarterback Should Have Been a Heisman Finalist

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    If you haven't heard, ESPN released the names of the Heisman Trophy finalists, and Matt Barkley was not one of them.

    Although the group that includes Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, Alabama RB Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback/punt returner Tyrann Mathieu is certainly elite, it is missing some important names.

    Among those names are Boise State's Kellen Moore, Houston's Case Keenum and USC's Matt Barkley.

    Players get spurned from the Heisman Trophy ceremony every year, but this one has to cut deeply for Trojan fans.

    Here are five reasons why Matt Barkley should be among the Heisman finalists.

1. Tyrann Mathieu

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    I'm just going to start by saying why LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu shouldn't be a Heisman finalist.  Barkley may have been sixth in line, and Mathieu is certainly a surprise in the list of finalists.

    Don't get me wrong, Mathieu is a very dynamic player and had a great season.

    However, for a defensive player to be a Heisman finalist, they must have a profound impact on their team like Ndamukong Suh did when he was with Nebraska.  Mathieu had only two interceptions, and despite having a good average on punt returns, he found the end zone only twice.

    The so-called "Honey Badger" may have a Heisman-caliber season in the future, but this was not one, especially against the weak offenses* in the SEC (*you must be an ESPN Insider to view the article).

    Mathieu is a surprise pick for a reason—he doesn't deserve to be one.

    Because Mathieu is a defensive player, his statistics don't compare to any of the quarterbacks or running backs on this list. Therefore, I will remove him from the discussion entirely for the remainder of the article.

2. Statistics

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    Statistics are always a go-to when looking at Heisman candidates, and it just so happens that Barkley's statistics are better than those who will be in New York on Saturday.

    His Pac-12 record 39 touchdown passes are higher than the totals of any other Heisman finalist—Luck had 35, Griffin III had 36, Ball had 32 and Richardson had just 20.  Mathieu returned two punts for touchdowns.

    He also had seven interceptions, two fewer than Luck's nine and only one more than Griffin III's six. Considering Barkley attempted 73 more passes than Luck and 77 more than Griffin III, that's an impressive statistic.

    Griffin III leads the pack in yards, and that number only increases when one adds his rushing totals. However,  Barkley had a better year statistically than Luck, which is notable enough to at least make him a finalist.

3. NCAA Sanctions

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    One thing that sets Barkley apart from every other starting quarterback is that he had to lead his team through the darkest period in its history.  Without the incentive of a bowl game or even a Pac-12 Championship Game, Barkley led his Trojans to a No. 5 ranking in the AP Poll.

    Despite this, many people at USC, including Lane Kiffin, feel that the sanctions have downgraded Barkley's Heisman candidacy when, in fact, they should do the opposite.

    Going through the adversity of being the face of a program that is in the NCAA's doghouse is not easy, and Barkley deserves a lot of credit for sticking through it when he could have bolted for another school without penalty.

    To go out and have the season that he did is just the cherry on top.

4. Steady Improvement and Great Finish

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    Something that may be—but shouldn't be—overlooked is the astounding improvement Barkley experienced this year.

    Barkley started the season as a late first-round or early second-round draft pick and ended it as a Top 10 or even Top 5 candidate. He also ended his season with two extremely memorable performances that were arguably better than any of the other candidates'.

    Luck put up average numbers against Cal and Notre Dame, Griffin III did nothing stellar (such as throw six touchdowns) against Texas Tech and Texas, and Richardson was good but not great against Georgia Southern and Auburn.  Ball is the only finalist who finished the season with two of his better performances.

    Barkley really turned up the heat toward the end, throwing for six touchdowns twice and surpassing 300 yards three times over his last four games. His only dud came in a blowout victory over Washington in which he was only asked to attempt 28 passes.

    A strong finish full of memorable plays is likely what got Mathieu to New York, but I've already given my reasons for not including him here.  

    Barkley's amazing conclusion should have done more to get him to the Heisman ceremony.

5. History

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    Matt Barkley had a better year than USC Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart did when they won their trophies. In fact, he broke a lot of their records over the course of the season.

    Maybe times have changed, but anytime a quarterback sets the touchdown record for a major conference, he should be sitting in a chair at the Heisman ceremony.

    Is it narrow-sighted to ignore the competition around him? Perhaps, but the historically relevant achievements that Barkley added to his resume this season should have earned him a spot in New York.

    Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Montee Ball, Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu are all great players who have had great seasons, but Matt Barkley had a year that will be remembered for a long time (especially by UCLA fans), and it is extremely disappointing to see that he has not been chosen as a Heisman finalist.

    Should he have won the award? Probably not, but was he one of the Top 5 college football players this season?

    Without a doubt.