After a near perfect performance in Saturday’s 49-14 win over Notre Dame, USC quarterback Cody Kessler cemented his place among the nation’s best quarterbacks. Yet due in large part to the team’s record, he still hasn’t received the national attention he deserves.
Kessler’s numbers against the Fighting Irish were excellent: 32-of-40 for 372 passing yards and six touchdowns. He became the first opposing quarterback in Notre Dame history to throw for six touchdowns and throw for five in the first half.
Saturday’s game was Kessler's sixth game with at least 300 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. He is tied for second in the nation with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with 36 touchdowns and sixth with 3,505 passing yards. Kessler is also one of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks with a 70.7 completion percentage (also second in the nation) and has only four interceptions in 2014. His completion percentage would be a USC record if the season ended today (USC still has a bowl game appearance).
Due in part to an 8-4 record this season, Cody Kessler probably won't win any awards but just to show how good of a season he is having, lets compare his numbers to Matt Leinart’s Heisman season and Matt Barkley’s 2011 season when he finished sixth in the Heisman voting.
In 2004, Leinart finished the season with 3,322 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 65.3 completion percentage as he led the team to the national championship game where they defeated Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 55-19. He had two games with over 300 passing yards and three games with at least for passing touchdowns.
In 2011, Barkley ended the season with 3,528 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a 69.1 completion percentage in USC’s final season on probation in which they went 10-2. Barkley had six games with at least 300 passing yards and five games with at least four passing touchdowns. Barkley also broke the school record with six touchdowns against Colorado on November 4th, 2011 and finished the season with a Pac-12 record, 39 touchdowns.
With the bowl game left on the schedule, Cody Kessler is on pace to better both Leinart and Barkley’s numbers (he already broke Barkley’s school record, throwing seven passing touchdowns against Colorado, this season) and have statistically, one of the best seasons by a USC quarterback.
As a redshirt junior, Kessler has the option to enter the 2015 NFL Draft, but he will most likely return for his senior season and be a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Kessler will also try and do something both Barkley and Leinart did when they were Trojans, win the Pac-12 title (Barkley’s team was ineligible for the title game due to sanctions).