Matt Barkley and the 2012 season's expectations

Lets not get ahead of ourselves.

There is a lot of talk about USC going all the way next year.

Matt Barkley returning for his senior year is a very important part of the equation. Without him, next season would not be looking as bright.

But lets come back to that later.

There is no question that Matt Barkley is going to be the most watched player next season.

What's not to like?

He is a good looking kid from Newport Beach who comes from a great family, has a million dollar smile, is respectful and mature beyond his twenty-one years and doesn't have an ounce of baggage.

Barkley is this decades version of Jack Armstrong, the All-American boy.

Everyone is going to want a piece of him...good and bad. The good is obvious, Barkley will be next seasons feel good story. The bad is that there will be some who think Barkley is too good...you know the typical contrarians. Opposing players will be lining up to take their shots on the field and Barkley's detractors off the field will have an extra edge about them.

Regardless, I can think of no other player that will be able to handle the spotlight better than Matt Barkley.

The comparisons are starting to be made...

USC quarterback Matt Barkley is being celebrated with an almost religious zeal after announcing Thursday that he would remain a Trojan for another season, forgoing an opportunity to be drafted in the first round of the NFL and receive a multimillion dollar payday.

Forget Ferris Bueller, hail Barkley!

Barkley could even possibly bring USC a Heisman Trophy and a national championship next year while leading the team out of its dark, bowl-ban days. In his speech at Heritage Hall, The Times' Bill Plaschke noted that his words sounded like Tebow's when the former Florida quarterback gave his famous "Promise Speech" that led the Gators to the 2008 national title.

Matt Barkley is not going to like that. He really does want to be under the radar.

He is already the 2012 pre-season Heisman favorite.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s decision to forgo entry into next spring’s draft and return to school for his senior season makes him the clear early front runner for the 2012 Heisman.

Why Barkley? Well, consider that most of the players who finished in the top 10 in this year’s Heisman race are probably headed to the NFL, leaving what looks like a weak field in place for next year.

Barkley, who finished sixth in the race after throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, will start his campaign head and shoulders above the other contenders thanks to his status as the star quarterback on a traditional power contending for the national title.

When you also take into account the offensive weapons at Barkley’s disposal, including one of the best receiving duos in college football history in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, you have to expect him to put up Heisman-worthy numbers as a senior.

Like I said, expectations are already riding high.

And it doesn't stop there...

You could argue he's the best all-time USC quarterback already. If it's still an argument in 12 months, maybe Thursday was a mistake. Kiffin was on the sideline as a USC assistant for the end of Palmer's career and the entirety of Leinart's. He doesn't throw around the term "greatest Trojan ever" loosely.

"If he was to have a great year this year, how could you not say he was because of all the outside stuff he went through?" Kiffin said. "None of those guys had guys being able to transfer. None of those guys had to motivate a team around them without a bowl game to go to for two years."

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times this past season Barkley's production will depend on the protection he will get from his offensive line, next season it is going to depend a lot on who is protecting him at left tackle.

Now, about next seasons expectations.

There are lots of changes in the Pac-12 South Division alone. Three new coaches will offer different looks on both sides of the ball. And Oregon will be looking for revenge for this years Duck hunt in Eugene.

USC's defense still has some issues...

I don’t want to minimize what the return of Barkley means to the Trojans. He’s an elite quarterback with what will likely be the two best receivers in college football (Marqise Lee, Robert Woods) and a 1,000-yard tailback (Curtis McNeal) around him. USC will score on anyone, and coach Lane Kiffin will further his reputation as one of the game’s best offensive minds.

But until Lane’s father Monte gets the defense to start playing like his vaunted Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenses, Southern Cal is a 10- or 11-win team playing in a BCS bowl game next fall. There’s nothing wrong with that—but it’s also not close to dreams of yesterday for most USC fans.

[...]

Look at USC’s two biggest games this past season: The Trojans gave up 91 points and 990 yards to Stanford and Oregon and split the games. You’re not winning championships with those defensive numbers.

USC also got off to a slow start last season, the defense also got tired in some of those games. They had to hold on to the very end against Oregon and that last TD that Stanford scored was aginst a freshman CB because the starter went out because of an injury.

Depth will still be an issue.

So, with all the attention being placed on USC starting now, once again opposing teams will view playing USC as their super bowl and the face of that attention is Matt Barkley.

There is no better person to be at the helm when the season starts at the Meadowlands next September...

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