Matt Barkley returning to USC is just starting to sound a lot like Andrew Luck coming back to Stanford for another season when he had pretty much peaked as a college player.
Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated caught up with Barkley and talked to him about the aspect of returning to try and win this upcoming season.
Returning partly for fun, but partly to wrap up unfinished business? To enjoy more of the college experience before entering the college grind? Turning down millions for a one-time experience at winning a national championship for his alma mater? Sounds a lot like Luck last season, does it?
Yet this daily dish of campus frivolity is not the overriding reason Barkley put off the so-called No Fun League for a year. "I've had enough social time in college to be fine with moving on," Barkley said. It's more a matter of the fun he missed out on the past two years. "If USC hadn't had the adversity and sanctions," said Barkley's father, Les, "he absolutely would have left for the NFL."
Is it a financially sound decision to return for another season? Of course not. There are plenty of examples of quarterbacks returning for another year and doing just fine in the draft, like Sam Bradford or Luck (who considered turning pro after his sophomore year). On the flip side, there is the case of Matt Leinart, who saw himself drop down the draft board and is now working his way through the backlog of NFL roster sheets. However, it's refreshing to see Barkley being self-assured enough to believe he'll be just fine waiting another year.
It's a bit debatable about whether Barkley is on the same playing level as Luck, who was considered a sure thing and was definitely on a different level compared to anyone else on the college level. So there is definitely greater risk that Barkley is taking on by making such a high-level decision of this magnitude. However, Barkley knows he has a special group of guys at USC that he can win conference and national championships with, and that the last two seasons of not being able to complete that goal must have stuck in his craw.
Ultimately, while Luck had another great season and led Stanford to a BCS bowl, it was in some ways a bit of a disappointment; the Cardinal didn't win the Pac-12 and Luck didn't win the Heisman. Barkley knows that for USC's season to be a success, both of those accomplishments might have to come his way to make this return to college football totally worth it.