Matt Barkley can still win a Heisman Trophy. He can still lead the USC Trojans to a Pac-12 championship, and perhaps, a BCS championship. The idea of Barkley coming back for “unfinished business” is not completely lost.
But that trio of goals took a major hit Saturday night because USC couldn’t do one thing: beat Stanford with Barkley under center. That business will be left unfinished.
In an upset sure to rattle the Sunday polls and shake up the eventual BCS picture, the No. 21 Cardinal stunned second-ranked USC at home by a score of 21-14. Barkley threw two interceptions, was sacked five times and completed just under 50 percent of his passes in an anti-Heisman performance.
But it wasn’t entirely his fault. Barkley was under duress the entire game. It’s a stretch to think that the absence of center Khaled Holmes had that much of an impact on the Trojans’ offensive woes, but the bottom line is USC’s O-line was bottom-rung. There was no running game (59 yards before sacks) and certainly no protection. Conversely, the Cardinal rushed for 200 yards behind running back Stepfan Taylor (pictured).
It was remarkable how outmatched USC was on both sides of the trenches the entire game. When the Stanford offense needed the run game the most (in the fourth quarter), it got it. David Shaw‘s group ran 14 times in the final quarter, converted four third downs and scored the touchdown that would become the difference in the game. USC’s defensive line depth, already a concern heading into the season, was unable to do anything about it either.
Stanford didn’t need Andrew Luck because it pushed USC around. It’s that simple.
If the Trojans want to get back into the BCS championship picture, they’ll need to start pushing back. It’s been two weeks now (if we’re looking back on the Syracuse win) that USC has not been a real physical team up front. And it’s only September.