Matt Barkley is not attending a BCS bowl this January. He has to spend what appear to be his final two seasons in college paying for the sins of past USC Trojans, and his season will come to an end a week from now as the last moments of probation for his program expire.
But at least tonight, Barkley got something better than most bowls. He ended the dominance of the Oregon Ducks over the Pac-12.
The USC offensive line finally gelled together and gave Barkley the time he needed to sit back in the pocket and throw. Oregon, top five in the nation in forcing pressure with 32 sacks, managed only one on Saturday as they ran into a USC O-line ready to handle them. The Trojans didn't have a great day on the ground either, as 3.7 yards per rush isn't that much. Thus Lane Kiffin and Barkley decided to uncork it and let the run complement the pass.
Like Stanford, USC knew they had to beat Oregon in the trenches to get this win. Unlike Stanford, USC proved they had the next crucial element of an offense that can break down Oregon's attacking D: Top-flight wide receivers. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods can stretch the field vertically and force the Ducks to play deep coverage instead of continuously pressuring the QB, as the average coverage cornerbacks of Oregon were finally broken down on play after play. Barkley targeted Lee over and over on the night, and the freshman proved he was worthy of those passes, hauling in nearly 200 receiving yards by the end of the night. Woods, perhaps the best pure receiver in the nation, was happy to take a backseat with a relatively modest seven catch, 53 yard game, including a tug of war catch in the end zone to really send the Ducks to victory.
Barkley didn't have a perfect night. His interception late gave Oregon a chance to closed the lead up, and then a botched fumble on a handoff exchange with Marc Tyler nearly gave the Ducks their opportunity at overtime. But those five touchdown drives that Barkley marched with USC harkened back to the days of old for Troy, days where they didn't worry about whatever defense they faced. Barkley was hitting his tight ends when the receivers were blanketed and coming back to the receivers over and over tonight, especially Lee, who was a Duck-buster tonight. Eleven completions went to seven other Trojans other than Woods and Lee to help Barkley keep Oregon guessing on defense, and he proved that he knows how to run an offense just as well as any of his USC predecessors.
If this is Barkley's swan song to important college football (there's still UCLA, but I doubt he's fretting at this point), what a sendoff. Considering Barkley and the Trojans have been screwed over by the NCAA, what better way to wrap up their probationary status than by throwing everything from the Pac-12 and the national college football landscape into chaos?