USC freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra HS) was named PAC-12 offensive player of the week after their game at Oregon. He lit UCLA up worse than he did Oregon, so he may get the honor again. He finished the game with 13 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Photo by Ken Brooks
One more year.
That’s what fans at the Coliseum were chanting throughout USC’s 50-0 thrashing of cross-town rival UCLA on Saturday.
While the chants were clearly aimed at quarterback Matt Barkley in imploring him to stay another year rather than turning pro, the cries could have been interpreted in other ways, too.
One more year until this team could show the nation what they could accomplish without the restrictions of NCAA sanctions.
One more year until another recruiting class enters and contributes to a team already loaded with star freshmen and sophomores.
One more year of bragging rights over the bruised Bruins, whose embattled coach Rick Neuheisel said earlier in the week that his team had closed the gap on the Trojans.
Not based on what happened Saturday.
In front of the sellout crowd the Trojans put on the kind of performance that the departing 20-member USC senior class will remember for the rest of their lives.
USC clearly has a stranglehold on local college football supremacy. And the blowout victory will only help head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff as they make recruiting trips in the coming period.
With Barkley at the helm next year, this team could not only compete for a conference title, but a national championship as well.
However nobody is certain if Barkley will return.
“He’s every bit ready to go to the NFL,” Kiffin said of Barkley after the game. “It’s just going to be a decision, does he want do something that’s really unique. And he might be the kid to do that.”
If Barkley does return, he’ll have the dynamic receiving duo of Robert Woods (Gardena Serra High School) and Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra HS) to throw to. Woods set the all-time single season record for catches with 111. Keyshawn Johnson (Dorsey HS) held the record. And he and Lee became just the fourth player combination in USC history to each gain 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
Barkley could also have draft-eligible running back Curtis McNeal (Venice HS), who emerged from a muddled backfield situation to lead the team in rushing yards (1,005) and rushing touchdowns (5).
That is a lot of firepower that was produced from a pro style offense, not a college style offense, such as the spread or pistol offense. With the talent that USC has, they did not have to use any gimmicks.
This USC teams seems a lot like the early Pete Carroll teams. The Trojans struggled in 2001, which was Carroll’s first season as head coach, just as they did a year ago in Kiffin’s first year as coach.
In 2002, after a slow start USC caught fire and won their final eight games. By the end of the season many thought that they were the best team in the nation, but the two early season losses kept them out of the National Championship game. Also that season, Carson Palmer came out of nowhere to win the Heisman Trophy.
This current USC team is very similar to their 2002 team. After early season struggles this year, the Trojans are now regarded as one of the best teams in the country. But NCAA sanctions are preventing them from proving it in a meaningful game. Also, just like the 2002 season, Barkley has come out of nowhere to make a run at the Heisman.
The 2012 USC team may look a lot like the 2003 team, who were voted as the AP National Champions. That team had to replace Palmer, but an unknown quarterback named Matt Leinart emerged. If Barkley does not return, the next quarterback in line will have a loaded roster to work with. But if Barkley does return, USC will be an early season favorite to win the title.
Barkley, who set the USC single season record for touchdown passes with 39, isn’t the only Trojan with a tough decision to make.
Left tackle Matt Kalil is considered the best at his position in the nation, and could very possibly be selected in the top 10 of next year’s NFL draft. Having Kalil back to protect Barkley’s blindside could only help in convincing the quarterback to stay.
Safety TJ McDonald and defensive end Nick Perry could also be selected high in the draft. Their consistently stellar performances and leadership are parts of the reason that early criticisms of the defensive unit began to gradually subside.
The returns of all these players could result in something special next season.
One more year.
Sentinel Sports Editor Jason Lewis contributed to this article.
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