Thanks to Matt Barkley’s incredible play, the senior has resurrected USC, a program thought critically wounded thanks to a two-year bowl ban and loss of 30 scholarships.
Matt Barkley has changed the balance of power in college football. Like Anakin Skywalker in the “Star Wars” series, Barkley’s decision to remain at USC for his senior season means a lot of Pacific 12 defensive coordinators will have sleepless nights.
Anakin was the Chosen One, the person who was to bring balance to the Force in the “Star Wars” universe. He didn’t, but his offspring, Luke and Leia, did.
Barkley has put himself in that same situation. USC was a program some saw as left for dead, suffering through a two-year bowl ban. Now the Trojans must endure the loss of 30 scholarships, which will be punished through the next three years.
Some say the NCAA has been too harsh on USC. But the NCAA rules college football with a vengeful fist as other schools have tasted its wrath. Ohio State got slapped with a one-year bowl ban for something very minor. And Penn State’s football program has been annihilated so badly, the death penalty would have been a better fate.
None of them had the might of USC though. Since 2002, no team has had success like the Trojans. They were so good, it’s doubtful any team will be that dominant ever again. From 2002 to 2008, the team won at least 11 games every year, appearing in three national championship games (the 2004 Rose Bowl wasn’t the Bowl Championship Series title game, but USC was the No. 1 team) and winning two. Every one of those seasons culminated in a BCS game. Trojans fans were spoiled because they had to “settle” for the Rose Bowl for three straight years after losing the BCS title game to Texas in 2006.
The NCAA’s punishment derailed USC.
Thanks to Barkley’s stellar play and Coach Lane Kiffin’s expert recruiting, USC went 10-2 last season. Barkley threw 39 touchdowns last year, setting himself up to ditch USC for the NFL and millions of dollars.
“The 2012 team has some serious, unfinished business to attend to. And I intend to play a part in it,” Barkley said in a press conference last December.
Now USC’s leading man is the favorite to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. The Trojans begin the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. They have a favorable schedule to go undefeated and win the national championship, although doing so would probably mean defeating Oregon twice, something not even a Southeastern Conference team would like to do.
Another former USC quarterback faced a similar dilemma in 2005. Matt Leinart played the perfect season — undefeated team, national championship, he won the Heisman Trophy — then had to choose the NFL or USC. Leinart had no reason to stay, yet he did.
Barkley’s situation is different. He, nor his team, have accomplished anything Leinart and that squad did.
Anakin Skywalker’s kids did bring balance to the Force. Maybe Barkley will fail. Maybe he won’t win the Heisman. The Trojans lose a game and suddenly they’re out of the title hunt.
Barkley’s decision to come back makes USC a contender, which is just as important. USC, no matter what, isn’t left for dead.
Ask Ohio State and Penn State if they would like to be in USC’s position to start this season. No. 1 with momentum isn’t bad.
Any doubts about Barkley’s knowledge of the Force? Here’s what he did last year.