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Reality smacks Matt Barkley and USC

I’ve never been a Lane Kiffin fan, and I’m hardly alone. Kiffin comes across as an arrogant punk, and frankly he’s done little as a head coach to inspire much confidence. He’s been a good recruiter at USC, but I wasn’t surprised to see USC lay another egg against Stanford last night.

Yeah, it’s over.

The idea of a perfect Trojans season. The idea of an easy Matt Barkley Heisman. The lovely notion that a college football team can come off two years of probation and dominate the football world as if it never left.

Oh, it’s ugly.

Just three games into what was supposed to be a dream season, the Trojans were slapped awake and senseless Saturday by Stanford in a 21-14 loss that felt like a 12th-round knockout.

Lying flat today is Barkley, tossed around in a backfield that became a dangerous place without injured center Khaled Holmes, leveled by poor communication with receivers that resulted in consecutive interceptions, the golden boy all bronzed.

Lying next to him is Coach Lane Kiffin, who began the week by causing a silly distraction with the media and ended it overseeing a team that followed his lead by playing undisciplined and, well, distracted.

Also, for all those fans expecting Matt Barkley to be a savior for an NFL franchise, this game has to throw some cold water on that notion as well.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Matt Barkley returns to USC for senior season

USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley passes under pressure by Oregon Ducks linebacker Boseko Lokombo (25) during the first half of their NCAA football game in Los Angeles, California, October 30, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

USC quarterback Matt Barkley just announced at a 1 PM PST news conference that he will be returning to play for the Trojans in 2012 and will not enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Barkley felt that he was ready for the NFL but stated that he had “unfinished business” at USC. The USC marching band was on hand at the announcement so that took away some of the suspense leading up to his announcement.

This is great news for a top-flight program that has had to endure a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years. But even with that USC finished with only two losses in 2011 under Lane Kiffin and destroyed UCLA 50-0 in its last game of the season, leading to the resignation of Rick Neuheisel and the hiring of Jim Mora.

Barkley posted some huge numbers this season and had NFL scouts drooling in what was shaping up to be an epic year for quarterbacks in the NFL Draft. He completed 308 of 446 passes for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns vs 7 interceptions and with a completion percentage of 69%. Barkley worked in a pro-style offense at USC which made him even more attractive to many scouts.

Without Barkley in the draft, Robert Griffin III will get even more buzz as the likely #2 quarterback taken after Andrew Luck. Many teams like the Miami Dolphins, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns might be looking hard at a quarterback in the first round so it will be interesting to see how Griffin does at the combine and how tall he measures out at (he’s listed at 6′ 2″). There are other prospects as well like Landry Jones, but with Barkley there seemed to be real debate developing over whether teams would prefer him or Griffin after Luck.

Barkley enters to 2012 season at USC as one of the clear favorites for the Heisman Trophy, so this golden boy will be all the rage next year. USC has 17 starters coming back for next season so the Trojans will be in the mix for the Pac-12 championship. Also, Barkley can purchase up to $5 million in insurance under the NCAA’s Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability program.

College football needed some good news in an otherwise lame 2011 calendar year of bad news, so this is an early holiday gift for fans.

USC shocks Oregon; is for real again

Don’t look now, but USC is 9-2, and although it can’t go to a bowl game, it just seriously impacted the BCS picture.

The Trojans went into Autzen Stadium and put on an offensive clinic against Oregon, as Matt Barkley and company carved up the Ducks in a 38-35 USC win. That makes two teams who looked to have a good shot at playing for a national title (Oklahoma State and Oregon) who are now just hoping to win their conference and play in a BCS bowl.

That’s the major story that comes out of this weekend, that the BCS was shaken to its core, and Alabama’s path to a rematch just got a lot more clear. But maybe, just maybe, we should look a little at how good USC actually is.

This is a team that took Andrew Luck and Stanford to multiple overtimes. That went into South Bend and beat up on Notre Dame. And now, despite NCAA sanctions and not having a full complement of scholarships, the Trojans are coming together and looking like a top 10 team. Yes, top 10.

Matt Barkley is the real deal, and the team that loses the Andrew Luck sweepstakes should not be disappointed in having to “settle” for Barkley. His receivers, namely Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, are spectacular, and despite very little depth on the offensive line, the Trojans have put together a solid run game.

I realize nobody wants to admit this, and believe me, I’m in that group, but Lane Kiffin is doing one heck of a job right now in Los Angeles. He’s convinced a team with literally nothing but pride to play for that these games matter.

UCLA is the only game left on USC’s schedule, and that should be a win. And, frankly, 10-2 for the Trojans is an incredible accomplishment this year. I’m not sure if this will translate to more success when the Trojans become eligible for bowl games next season, as I’m assuming Barkley is going to jump to the pros. But if he stays, I don’t see why USC can’t compete for a national title next year. Seriously.

Week 6 forecast: Will Sparty stop Denard Robinson? Will South Carolina pull the upset?

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Marcus Lattimore  of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

College football season continues to be awesome. It seems like every week I sit down to write my picks (which also continue to be awesome) there are a handful of games that are can’t miss.

I don’t know if that’s because there’s an increasing number of good teams in college football, or if all the cupcakes teams were feasting on at the beginning of the season beefed up their records artificially. Either way, I like being excited on a Friday night for what I’m about to see the next day, and I’ve been like that for a few weeks now.

This week is no different, in fact, it’s about as big as any weekend of the season. And maybe that’s artificially inflated for myself living in Michigan and seeing about 50% of my Facebook “friends” switch their profile picture to something Michigan or Michigan State related. It’s half exciting and half terribly annoying (example: New friend request from John Doe. Hmm, John Doe doesn’t ring a bell, I wonder what he looks like. Oh, he looks just like Denard Robinson. Strange. Ignore. (Not true, I never ignore. My ego can use all the friends it can get, virtual or not.)).

Enough parentheses, let’s get to the games. Read the rest of this entry »

What we learned: Dion Lewis needs help; so does USC’s defense

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Now that college football is back and we no longer have to spend our time over-analyzing off-field issues, let’s turn our attention to over-analyzing what we’ve seen in one night the play on the field.

The first night of games was pretty vanilla — outside of Utah’s overtime win over Pittsburgh, as Anthony pointed out earlier — but it did give us a little bit of insight into a few teams, and what we could possibly expect to see from them down the road.

Let’s take a look at three things we learned on Thursday night: Read the rest of this entry »

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