Fresh off a 423-yard, six-touchdown performance in a blowout victory against UCLA, it’s hard to argue that junior quarterback Matt Barkley isn’t worthy of some Heisman consideration.
But in this year’s talented pool of Heisman contenders, even with Barkley’s impressive numbers — his 39 touchdown passes mark a single-season Pac-12 record — it’s unlikely he’ll win the award or be chosen as one of the four finalists sent to New York City on Dec. 10.
Fair or not, USC’s postseason ban has a negative effect on Barkley’s Heisman chances. Though Angelenos won’t soon forget the Trojans’ 50-0 rout over the Bruins, Heisman voters in different regions of the country are already turning their attention to conference championships and bowl game matchups. So with every touchdown pass from Houston’s Case Keenum or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III this coming weekend, Barkley’s career-best statistics will slowly fade into the back of the minds of college football lovers.
Heisman ballots are due Dec. 5, the day after the BCS announces participants in the national championship game, the Rose Bowl and more. It’s a symptom of the fickle nature of college football — with so much emphasis on each week’s slate of games, falling behind in the slightest can leave a worthy Heisman nominee such as Barkley on the outside looking in.
But even in a hypothetical scenario in which Heisman voters would be able to holistically evaluate a player’s body of work, Barkley comes up short compared to some of the other candidates. For each of his brilliant efforts against Colorado, Oregon and UCLA, there’s another less-than-stellar game for pundits to nitpick. Barkley threw two interceptions and just one touchdown in a blowout loss to Arizona State earlier this season, and accounted for less than 200 yards passing in games against California and Washington. It’s easy to point to USC’s victories in those latter Pac-12 battles, but Barkley wasn’t a driving force behind either win — it was USC’s defense.
Perhaps most of all, the Trojans’ triple-overtime loss at home against Stanford likely keeps Barkley beneath Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck in the voting process, despite that USC’s signal caller has more total passing yards and touchdowns than his Pac-12 rival. As for the other candidates expected to beat out Barkley, Griffin III, Keenum and Alabama running back Trent Richardson all have a more complete résumés than USC’s field general. Griffin has managed to throw for more than 400 yards in games against No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 3 Oklahoma State. He has 3,678 passing yards and more than 600 rushing yards, propelling a fairly small football program into the top-25.
Richardson finished the season with more than 1,500 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns, eclipsing 100 yards rushing nine times and had four games where he accounted for at least three scores. And Houston’s Keenum has his Cougars at a perfect 12-0, while leading the nation in passing yards (4,726) and passing touchdowns (43). Even more impressively, he’s only been picked off three times.
If Barkley returns for his senior season, he’ll have the chance to lead the Trojans to a BCS title and possibly win the Heisman Trophy too. For now, however, it looks as if Barkley is rightfully on track to finish somewhere around fifth when the final votes are tallied this time around.