How Did Matt Barkley and USC Tumble So Far in 2012?

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by Francisco Ricardo

California Correspondent, White Cover Magazine

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Their first year back in eligibility for anything that mattered, and the USC Trojans somehow tumbled further.

That was evident on Monday, when USC lost the Hyundai Sun Bowl (yes, those are the kinds of bowl games they’re playing in now) to Georgia Tech, a team that hadn’t won a bowl game of any kind since FDR was in office. 21-7 they lost, and finished with a final record of 7-6.

Not quite what everyone expected from the team named after the world’s most reliable condom.

They started off as the Number 1 team in the nation, losing that designation because Alabama was always better but really losing it for good when they lost 21-14 to #21 Stanford in Week 3. They were decent moments the rest of the way, like when they hung with mighty the mighty Oregon offence in a 62-51 loss, but it was mostly a season of regret.

USC lost all four meetings with ranked teams in 2012, including the final two to UCLA and Notre Dame.

And then there’s Matt Barkley, who missed his final game with the Trojans with a tweaked and torqued shoulder. The Sun Bowl is not the Rose Bowl, and he chose to sit this one out.

But, Barkley — who started off the year as the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy — has been underwhelming all year long. He not only blew his final year in college but maybe he chances for a real gig in the pros, as well. He could have gone to the Draft last year, but chose to come back for a last kick at the can in Southern Cal.

But, now, what NFL team will really take a legitimate chance on a guy that couldn’t throw the ball downfield for a full 60 minutes in college?

Barkley was a California Golden Boy entering 2012. He leaves a pariah.

“Matt Barkley is a southern California kid who grew up wanting to be the USC quarterback,” wrote the Bleacher Report‘s Brian Kinel. “And he accomplished that. His junior season saw the Trojans unable to play in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. Many thought USC was the best team in the country at that point.”

As Kinel writes, that kind of disappointment will always leave you wanting more. The taste of blood on your lip always gets you angry. The thought that you never had a chance all along makes you wish you ever had it in the first place, and it’s easy to see 2012 as Barkley’s only chance. Ever.

But, a 7-6 record, and a less-than-impressive clutch profile?

That doesn’t translate to the Bigs.

“It’s so hard to think a USC quarterback will do well at the next level,” continues Kinel. “The list of disappointments from that fraternity is long. Leinart, Booty, Sanchez, Cassel and Palmer lately.”

Of course, not everyone values football over personal integrity, or the appearance of it.

“When it was time for him to take the money and run last year, he stayed,” wrote the Los Angeles Times‘ Bill Dwyre. “In all instances that come to mind during a career in which he kept the torch burning for Trojans fans and a football program bulldozed by the NCAA, he acted with maturity and sensibility.

“But his decision to not test a shoulder sprained more than six weeks ago is revealing. Yes, the doctors say it isn’t worth the risk to his pro career, but you sense that he took that advice quickly and easily.

“Barkley is going to the pros. That’s the ever-present priority. The colleges preach, and want us to believe, that team and togetherness are the ultimate lessons. But the reality is a different marriage. It is all for one and one for all, until death — or the Sun Bowl — do us part.”

Dwyre may not be wrong, but the Personal/Professional conflict facing NCAA athletes — especially ones in the limelight like Barkley or his coach Lane Kiffin — are not new and are not done with. Dwyre’s right to suggest that Barkley make these decisions for himself, but it doesn’t solve the problems facing USC, and they are as follows…

The Trojans are no longer the Trojans. High school kids no longer dream of following in the footsteps of Reggie Bush or Carson Palmer, because those names hold little weight anymore. For a long time, the Trojans were the NCAA’s Hollywood sign. They always represented the dream, the national audience, and the popcorn with the medium pop.

Now? Hell, USC isn’t even the headliner of their own conference.

Stanford and Oregon own the Pacific, and that could change as soon as they fall victim to an over-jealous NCAA investigator. Because, hey, they all break the rules.

Alabama is back, and even Notre Dame has stolen SoCal’s eyeballs and all its Hawaiian recruits.

The Trojans are out of magic. They’re out of tricks. And, unlike their namesake condoms, they’re no longer reliable.

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*Here’s TMZ with an uneducated analysis of Matt Barkley’s stock in the upcoming NFL Draft…