With the Trojan defense hanging tough, and a little help from Oregon's kicker, USC held on to defeat Oregon 38-35. With one more game left against UCLA it might be a little early to look ahead, but with a performance like that coupled with a strong game against Stanford it is hard not to wonder about what could be next season. Right now there are only two senior starters on the team (well 3 if you count Marc Tyler, but I think he may have had his last carry as a USC running back) which are defensive tackles DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou meaning Lane Kiffin could potentially bring back 20 of 22 starters for next year from a team that is a hair's breadth from being 10-2. However, there are four juniors who will have a tough decision to make as they are all projected NFL Draft picks: Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Nick Perry, and T.J. McDonald.
So what do these four have to gain from coming back? Matt Barkley would likely become the all time wins leader at USC, would contend for the Heisman, and have the opportunity to go down as USC's greatest quarterback. Nick Perry is currently projected as a late first to mid second round pick but could solidify himself as a first round pick and book a couple extra million if he stays. TJ McDonald has the same opportunity and could be a fast riser if SC's veteran secondary dominates next season. Now I have skipped over Matt Kalil, but that's because he is already considered a lock in the first round is universally thought of as an elite Left Tackle. The only reason he would come back is for the reason all these players share together.
If all four players return USC is poised to contend for a national tile in the 2012 season. But what would make this truly extraordinary for the university is that the Trojans could win it all in their first season of eligibility for post-season play and in the shadow of NCAA sanctions. It would truly be a statement season even if the team only made it as far as the Rose Bowl as the act of playing in a BCS bowl would send a message to the NCAA that nothing they can do can keep USC down. And although all of these young men may have good or great careers in the NFL, they would go down as legends in College Football. My thanks goes out to all of our players who have stood by their school through these sanction, but please; Barkley, Kalil, Perry, and McDonald, consider playing your senior year at USC and leading the program out from under the cloud of NCAA sanctions before heading on to your fortunes in the NFL.
FIGHT ON and BEAT THE BRUINS!