Matt Barkley slings precision from football shadows
At the season’s midway point, Matt Barkley leads the nation in touchdown passes. Outside of his teammates, classmates, and those in the general vicinity of his campus, no one either knows or cares to speak of it. The sophomore quarterback is also 8th in the country in passing efficiency, possessing a quarterback rating of 167.30. He’s held his own in head-to-head matchups against Jake Locker and Andrew Luck, two of the top quarterback prospects for next year’s draft, but since his Trojans came up short in both games—Still not a peep.
When we look at Barkley of 2010, what we find is a quarterback that was more embraced by the national media in his freshman year, and before he ever threw a collegiate pass. This year’s version slings from the shadows with precision, and his feats mostly go unnoticed or with little mention. This is a rarity for the new century Trojans, when you consider that he was preceded by quarterbacks that were easily the faces of the program. It was Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez and their USC Trojans. Today it’s just Coach Lane Kiffin and his USC football team.
In the season of the quarterback, Barkley has taken a backseat to the likes of Denard Robinson, Cam Newton, Taylor Martinez, and Ryan Mallet. Despite his numbers, he receives less hype than conference brethren Nick Foles and Darron Thomas. He isn’t unbeaten, and his team is unranked, but this quarterback is easily the Trojans’ midseason MVP, and should at least be worthy of Heisman whispers.
When the dust settled from USC’s outing with Cal last weekend, Barkley was sharing the spotlight with another storyline. After tying a school record with 5 touchdown passes against the Golden Bears, those in-game tosses were deflected by postgame chatter of the Trojans defensive awakening.
Cal entered the Coliseum hoping to take advantage and kick a former champion while he’s down. Instead, Jeff Tedford’s team walked into a good old fashioned L.A. ambush. The hapless Bears were stymied by a defensive uprising that pitched a first half shutout before surrendering two touchdowns once the game was well in hand. It was the most impressive victory of the season, and with USC now in a bye week, the door of opportunity is open for the Trojans to sneak back into the AP poll next week to face Oregon as a ranked team.
The Ducks will provide a better defensive measure, when they bring the nation’s top offense to town. With two weeks to prepare, it’s less likely that Oregon finds Rip Van Winkle on the opposing sideline, and more likely to be challenged by a unit with eyes wide open and focused on the prize.