Gap between Barkley, Luck not too steep
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian started a little bit of gamesmanship and a whole lot of confusion last week when he said heâd take USC junior quarterback Matt Barkley over Stanford quarterback and Heisman-favorite Andrew Luck if he were picking in the NFL draft.
After this weekend, it seems Sarkisian might be on to something after all.
After Barkley led the Trojans to their eighth win of the season Saturday â a 40-17 romp of Sarkisianâs Huskies â Luck explored unfamiliar territory, standing for the first time in over a year on the losing side of a football game.
Though Barkleyâs performance might not be the sole reason for the margin of victory, and Luck certainly isnât the only one to blame for the loss, the results provoke a line of thinking that is rarely expressed publicly â there might not be as large of a divide in talent between these two as was originally thought.
The Barkley vs. Luck storyline has been analyzed and examined as much as anything else in college football this season, with the older Luck, a redshirt junior, taking more than just attention away from Barkleyâs merits.
Talk of trophies, in particular the Heisman, come standard, but recently even talk of being âthe greatest everâ to play quarterback in college has become standard.
Of course, before Saturday, Luck had been doing his part to at least entertain the hype, throwing for 2,424 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions in nine games.
But Barkley was not close behind â he was better.
Before playing Washington, the USC junior had racked up more yards (2,608), more touchdowns (28), and just one more interception (six) than Luck, good enough to at least join the discussion of best quarterbacks in the nation.
Or so you would think.
With pass-happy teams like Houston and Baylor allowing their quarterbacks to put up astronomical numbers, it is nearly impossible for Barkley (and most other major conference quarterbacks) to compete statistically on the national level.
So that places Barkleyâs national presence in the hands of the media, which have not responded kindly to USCâs sanctions.
The resulting lack of press puts him on the proverbial back burner, leaving the team to make use of its few nationally televised games to showcase a bevy of talent.
As the Pac-12 plays host to some of the best collection of quarterbacks in the nation, most hype regarding Barkley comes with a comparison to the current weekâs opponent, and then ultimately Luck.
Meanwhile, Luck has been placed in the spotlight since day one â pegged as a preseason lock for the Heisman, he was soon engrained in fansâ minds as the best in the nation before the Cardinal had even taken a snap.
If a 9-0 start didnât absolutely solidify this mentality, other influencers â Pac-12 coaches making Luck out to be a god among men to get their teams prepared, ESPNâs constant assumption of his first-pick status, the âSuck for Luckâ campaign â certainly did.
So you can imagine the shock when Luck, instead of leading his team on a furious fourth-quarter rally to erase a 46-30 deficit against Oregon, threw a pass that bounced off his intended receivers handsâ and the Ducks intercepted for a touchdown, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Luck finished the game with decent numbers, throwing for 271 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions; but the losing effort, emphasized by the late pick-six, did enough damage to prove he is, in fact, human.
Luck remains the favorite for the Heisman, and will probably continue to be touted as the best college quarterback in some time, but it is clear these ideas are not as concrete as previously thought.
Barkleyâs legacy remains fluid as well, but lacks the attention â his consistent, solid play as the leader of an 8-2, sanction-riddled team is slowly being noticed, as it inevitably should be.
Though you might not find it the least bit hard to pick a winner in this quarterback competition, itâs clear that there remains room for debate on both sides.
The gap in talent between these two stars is not nearly as large as one would ascertain from watching SportsCenter.
Whether he meant it or not, we can all thank Sarkisian for pointing this out.
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