Quarterback Matt Barkley finished last season with a bang. He threw for 423 yards and six touchdown passes in a 50-0 victory over UCLA. And overall, he notched 39 touchdowns, breaking former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart's Pac-12 and USC season record.
When he announced his decision to return for one more year, many expectations were placed not only on him, but on the team as well. Barkley was the preseason favorite to win the Heisman trophy, the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press poll and many thought this team was the favorite to be in South Beach in January.
But through four games thus far, Barkley has been far from the guy that many expected him to be coming into this year. He's thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions, while completing just 61.5 percent of his passes. Compared to last season's gaudy stats (39 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 69.5 percent completion rate), he seems to be off the mark.
Despite this, coach Lane Kiffin has stood by quarterback. He has maintained the senior signal caller has, for the most part, done a good job of managing games.
"You're not seeing balls thrown downfield, forced into coverages," USC coach Lane Kiffin said after practice Tuesday. "For instance, Saturday (against Cal), that could have been one of those games where he's frustrated because the numbers aren't there. He's done a great job not giving in to that."
And although the statistics might not pop out at people, Kiffin believes his quarterback has done everything asked of him.
"As we all know, he didn't play very well at Stanford; we didn't play well around him," Kiffin said of Barkley. "Other than that, he's played really well. He's had some bad breaks too, which happens, which is why stats are sometimes a little misleading."
Passes have been behind receivers, passes have been too high. Barkley's passes have been thrown with defensive backs blanketed all over his receivers. His passes, generally speaking, have been off target. Yes, he's also been the recipient of dropped balls and even wrong routes run by his receivers.
But that accuracy, that same touch on the ball, that elite play that everybody saw toward the end of last season has been lacking for the most part through four games thus far.
Heading into the bye week, what do you make of Barkley's play this year?