Matt Barkley gets one last chance to dance with the USC Trojans on Saturday night after perhaps his most impressive performance in the colors of Troy. That is, unless he decides he wants to tango one more year with one of the most talented teams in the country and hope it ends in a national championship.
Obviously Barkley was expecting a lot more payoff from his seasons than one beatdown after another of the crosstown rival UCLA Bruins. He didn't think his postseason experience in Troy would consist of one trip to San Francisco right after Christmas.
Barkley has improved to the point where he and Andrew Luck are talked about in the same sentence, and he's very likely to be rewarded with a high pick in the draft. But that disappointment for unremarkable Trojan conquering seems to have him considering his options for next season. He is very much weighing the idea of coming back, at least from the interviews he give.
Barkley returning is the romantic thing to do. The Trojans are returning their top receivers in Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Brice Butler, their most consistent running back in Curtis McNeal, and pretty much the entire offensive line. The only O-line member who could be going is consensus top five pick left tackle Matt Kalil, and Kalil has made it clear he'd be willing to leave or goo dependent on whether Barkley leaves or goes. Add in a defense returning most of its personnel, and you have a 2012-13 BCS title contender.
It's the romantic thing, but not the pragmatic thing.
Barkley would be giving up a lot if he decided to return. He risks an injury that could cripple his draft status; he could regress and underachieve and fall out of favor and lose a lot of money doing so. And if the Trojans falter somewhere down the line next season, Barkley is stuck in a bad situation and has wasted a year in college that he could have spent developing to become a better pro.
So Barkley could hang it up after he likely beats the Bruins one last time. Or he could try for greater things before next season expires. What he decides could swing the fate of the Pac-12 championship, perhaps even of college football as a whole. Everyone in Los Angeles can only hope that Barkley's love of Trojan colors will keep him around to attempt a resurgence of his team under his watch, and make him one of the legends of Heritage Hall.