Matt Barkley today is the face of football in LA. Lane Kiffin was last seen running away from reporters at a USC practice facility, Jim Mora is mired in the same problems his predecessors experienced (if not caused), and the NFL in LA is still team-less, field-less, and faceless.
Just over halfway through the senior season the Heisman hopeful returned for, the Trojans sit at 6-2 and Barkley sits at the top of a ledge of SC quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in Pac 12 history (102) and counting. The top of the mountain is reserved for national championship and Heisman trophy winners. Despite missteps in the Stanford ice falls, and worse in the Arizona desert, the top of the mountain is where Barkley was climbing towards—which is exactly why he is the face of football in LA.
The Rams or Raiders (or any other prospective franchise) are just ideas. Barkley is a real person, a real star, and by most accounts a real stand up guy. The Mater Dei product has already graduated from SC in less than four years, despite being the starting quarterback for a top 5 programs in the country for all 4 years.
Programs have a tendency to regress. You can only be at the top for so long before being knocked off the perch. Despite being ineligible for postseason for each of the past 3 seasons, despite scandals, wins and trophies vacated, AD changes, coaches and more coaches leaving the program, USC has maintained an impressively elite level. The top talent in the country still walks into the LA Coliseum in their Home jerseys. The U and Notre Dame can’t boast that. Hell, even Florida can’t boast that.
The stability of Matt Barkley at quarterback steadied a program that looked ready to tank. All USC athletic department staff, coaches, players, and fans owe Barkley. If he jumped ship when the NCAA sunk their cannonball sanctions into the program, most of the other talent would have followed suit. Not only would there have been no postseason, but no wins either as the program would have re-started from scratch.
So this season is supposed to be Barkley’s reward for his good faith, and a gift to USC fans clamoring to once again be the best in college football. But with a loss at Arizona the plans are actually dreams. Barkley can kiss the Heisman goodbye, his draft stock likely will fall with it.
Every other major city in the US’ identity is closely tied to their professional football franchise. USC football is equated with the NFL in LA; but while USC’s fandom is far reaching it is polarizing. Not just UCLA grads, but just about anyone living in LA who isn’t from LA dislikes USC, particularly because they historically have had success. USC football is what we have in LA, but it will never be pan-supported by Los Angelinos and thus not football like NFL cities or one school cities have.
Matt Barkley is the face of football in LA, which is why he is number 11 on our list Today, although the face of USC football is changing quickly now that the Heisman and National Championship are out of reach.