Fear not, fans of Troy. Although Anthony Barr’s 4th quarter sack knocked out Matt Barkley from the other freeway series on Saturday and potentially the season, he did not completely dash all hope of redeeming a “lost season.”
Yes, a national championship is a fleeting consideration. True, the wounds over a failed bid for a Pac-12 South title and a shot at the conference crown need tending to. A small sliver of light still remains as the peeling of duct
tape from Tommy Trojan concludes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Max Wittek, redshirt freshman and new starting quarterback for the USC Trojans. Fans might have caught glimpses of Wittek at the end of the Hawaii and Colorado contests, whose outcomes were already decided, where he put up solid numbers, 8-9 for 95 yards and a TD. Granted, this highly touted recruit’s limited plays came in garbage time, against back ups and underclassman, but this could very well represent the future of USC Football.
A victory over the top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team enjoying their most successful season since 1993 and positioned for their first national championship since 1989, would make for a nice remedy, the chicken soup for a better bowl game bid. The Irish offered Wittek a scholarship and a chance to don the gold and navy blue.
Despite his lack of experience, Wittek and Barkley share some similarities. They both attended Mater Dei High School and started as seniors, earning almost every prep All-American award for their efforts. Their senior season numbers are incredibly close in comparison.
Barkley: 177-of-325 passes (54.5%) for 2,877 yards with 23 TDs and 18 interceptions
Wittek: 153-of-282 passes (54.3%) for 2,252 yards with 24 TDs and 15 interceptions
Wittek also ran for 175 yards and 6 TDs, so he can get out of the pocket and possibly elude Manti T’eo bearing down on him.
Each quarterback graduated from high school a semester early and chose to attend USC to participate in spring practice. Barkley started as a true freshman, while Wittek will experience his first start with a year of apprenticeship under his belt.
Wittek will not have the same rapport with his receivers that Barkley enjoyed, but he will still have those same receivers. The ability to throw the ball down the field to Lee, Woods, and Agholor, and over the middle to Grimble and Telfer still remains a vital weapon in the USC offensive arsenal. Curtis McNeal found a groove in the UCLA defense to the tune of 161 yards on 21 carries, so a healthy dose of McNeal and Silas Redd, who is still fighting an undisclosed injury, will benefit the rookie while facing the #6 defense in the FBS, allowing a staggering 9 offensive TDs to opponents this season.
Wittek faces a tall order in orchestrating a monumental upset over Notre Dame. The exhorting Coliseum crowd, awash in cardinal and gold, will thrust their victory signs high into the air and watch with bated breath as the Trojans take the field wondering, “Could they?” USC confronts an unenviable challenge combined with a unique opportunity to completely and emphatically erase the pains of the 2012 campaign, allowing fans to retort, “Yeah, but that game against Notre Dame made it all worth while.”