Matt Barkley Lovefest 2009 Needs to End


LOS ANGELES – Being a freshman USC student, I personally like our starting quarterback Matt Barkley just as much as the guy rooming down the hall from me. In all reality, I believe that number seven has the potential to become arguably the greatest quarterback in school history and eventually fulfill Mel Kiper Jr.’s prophecy of becoming the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. But even with that said, the fact that Barkley has received so much hype and so much attention in just two short months as the Trojans’ signal caller has become rather irritating to say the least. For the record, it is important to recognize his accomplishments (6-0 as a starter), but at the same time, it is also important to realize that some of the praise bestowed upon the Orange County native may be a tad bit undeserving.

In general, I give a lot credence to the website Heisman when it comes to the evaluation of legitimate stiff arm trophy candidates, but in regards to the candidacy of Barkley, I find their support to be rather laughable. In a recent survey, Barkley was included among HP’s top twenty Heisman contenders, which also featured other acclaimed quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Case Keenum, and Jimmy Clausen. Other noteworthy websites such as weren’t shy to include Barkley on their preliminary Heisman watch lists either. Additionally, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award released its 2009 O’Brien Semifinalist List earlier this week, which also happened to feature the young ‘SC quarterback.

But in all honesty, Barkley has not been particularly deserving of either honor provided one looks at the entire situation objectively and removes his cardinal and gold pants. For one Barkley’s statistics aren’t particularly gaudy to begin with. So far this season, he has thrown for just 1,540 yards (43rd nationally), 7 touchdowns (76th nationally), and 5 interceptions (50th fewest nationally). Additionally, he has posted a 60.2 completion percentage that places him just 45th in the entire country. Are these really the numbers we come to expect out of a Heisman Trophy candidate or even a Davey O’Brien Award semi-finalist?

What makes the fact that so many are enamored with these ho-hum stats so puzzling is that in all reality, Barkley has not really faced a legitimate pass defense all year long. For starters, here is where USC’s opponents presently rank  in terms of quarterback rating against:

1.) San Jose State – 96th
2.) Ohio State – 14th
3.) Washington  -104th (note: Barkley did not play due to injury)
4.) Washington State – 113th
5.) California – 87th
6.) Notre Dame – 90th
7.) Oregon State – 71st

Outside of Ohio State, not one of these teams features a pass defense comparable to those found in the SEC or even the Big Ten. In the two games against the stingier secondaries, Ohio State and Oregon State, Barkley had unremarkable performances with a combined touchdown to interception ratio of 2:3, and at times, looked quite nervous. In the year’s biggest game against the Buckeyes, he failed to throw for even one touchdown and complete over fifty percent of his passes.

But even with such average performances, the Mater Dei product has continued to garner a considerable amount of attention for “winning in hostile environments” such as Ohio Stadium and Notre Dame Stadium. But in all seriousness, very little credit should be dolled out to number seven. Against the Buckeyes, Barkley earned tons of credit for “The Drive,” in which he led the Trojans on a fourteen play, 86-yard drive for the game-winning score. However, it was his teammates, Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson, who did a considerable amount of work on the season-changing drive by rushing for a majority of the total yardage. Barkley, on the other hand, completed just three passes, with two of those completions receiving most of their yardage after the catch.

And yes, while the freshman sensation was also able to defeat intersectional rival Notre Dame in South Bend while in front of 80,000 screaming Irish fans, the fact that he was playing against such a dismal secondary might have made the whole mystique of Notre Dame a little less intimidating.

But in the end, the primary reason that Barkley is being considered for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award at all is the simple fact that he happens to be the quarterback of USC. This past decade, Trojan signal callers have had a remarkable track record with both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart taking home Heisman Trophies in 2002 and 2004 and with John David Booty and Mark Sanchez earning Rose Bowl MVP honors the past two years. Their past performances and the success of this year’s team (the Trojans are presently ranked 4th in the Associated Press top 25 poll) have rocketed Barkley to the shortlist of Heisman contenders even despite the glaring holes on his resume. I seriously like Barkley a lot, but I’m just not sure the time is right for the postseason hardware to be handed over to him just yet.