Just as the University of Southern California Trojans started the year number one and with much fanfare; so too their quarterback was heaped with praise and adulation as the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, heading into 2012. As if on cue though, while the team seemed to fight an uphill battle for any offense in a loss to Stanford, the senior quarterback struggled mightily as well, throwing two interceptions while ending up with less than 50% completion average.
So the question is: Can Matt Barkley still win the Heisman Trophy? Well, without better performances, the answer will be a resounding: no. Let's take a closer look.
Leadership qualities intact
First off, as far as character is concerned, you won't find anyone who has a better disposition, makeup and moral fiber than Barkley. This all lends itself to his leadership abilities which are excellent. Remember, when he decided to come back for his senior year and eschew the NFL, all his reasons had to do with the team coming back from probation to win a championship.
So far, the Trojan offensive line has not been a cohesive unit in 2012. The injury to their star center Khaled Holmes, plus the lack of effort from USC's young left tackle Aundrey Walker in the Stanford game, showed a flawed O-line that didn't appear able to block efficiently.
But these deficiencies are what a great quarterback makes up for. Usually Barkley's propensity for anticipating defenses has always been a strength; however, possibly because of different defense adjustments this year, he hasn't been as effective with game management. All-American Robert Woods has been lockdown by defenses using many different kinds of schemes to take Woods and sophomore sensation Marqise Lee out of the game or at least make them less effective.
Run to pass?
But this could just be a slump by the team and Barkley. The USC Trojan staff will figure it out how to open it eventually. And Barkley's slow start doesn't mean he or the offense will continue to be unproductive. Head coach Lane Kiffin went to a more balanced approach against Cal, with the Trojans gaining nearly 300 yards on the ground. In fact both USC tailbacks, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, gained over 100 yards in the game. Is this a shift in strategy for the men of Troy?
If it means winning, the Trojan staff and players are all for it. And Barkley himself says it's not about him and that he just wants to focus on winning after losing to Stanford. "You don't talk about it," Barkley said. "It's not mentioned. Our eyes were on Cal since that Sunday after Stanford. Then all our focus has been on Utah for over a week now. There's no point in dwelling on that. We don't talk about it or bring it up at all." (Source - Sports Illustrated)
Here's a comparison to keep in mind. Carson Palmer, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2002, had only three touchdown passes after three games in '02 - the team started out 3-2 before going on an eight-game winning streak that included an Orange Bowl victory and Heisman Trophy. Palmer threw 33 touchdown passes that year over 13 games. Barkley has thrown 12 touchdowns in four games and if you extrapolate that out to 12 regular season games, Barkley will have 36 touchdowns. Not bad - and if he and his USC team should get hot, look out.
It's hard to judge players after four games so let's just say that there's still time left in the season for Matt Barkley to increase his stats significantly and perhaps bring his team along the way into title contention. It won't be easy but if Barkley somehow makes it into the championship game, then all bets are off as to whether he's won the Heisman by then.
And it all starts with a huge game on the road against Utah (see related articles) that will be nationally televised on ESPN. Heisman voters will be watching.
Sources - University of Southern California
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!