Why Matt Barkley needs to go to New York

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
1:06
PM PT
Matt Barkley isn't going to win the Heisman Trophy. There are too many pieces that would that need to fall in place in too short a time for that happen.

But, examining the numbers from and context of the top six players' performances this season, he really should be going to New York City next week as a Heisman finalist.

Here's why.

There are six players who, as of the start of this weekend, had a chance to be finalists. Four are quarterbacks: Barkley, Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Houston's Case Keenum. Two are running backs: Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Alabama's Trent Richardson. Luck and Griffin are locks to go to to the ceremony, as is Richardson.

And that could be it -- there have been just three finalists before. But there can also be up to five, and the question here is whether Barkley has done enough to (1) finish in the top five of the balloting, and (2) finish close enough to the top three in the point system that he earns a complimentary trip to the Big Apple.

Here's the somewhat-crazy thing: Barkley's passing statistics are better than Luck's this season, from touchdowns to interceptions to yards. Luck was slightly better in completion percentage, but not by much. And Barkley's numbers are comparable to Griffin's through the air.

Where Griffin -- not Luck, as is commonly perceived -- jumps past Barkley is on the ground, where Griffin accumulated 600-plus rushing yards and nine touchdowns this season. Luck ran for 153 yards.

Then why does Luck deserve more support than Barkley? Sure, his team went 11-1 this year, and he beat Barkley in a head-to-head matchup at USC. But that game was about as close to an even matchup as you can get, and a Luck pick-six was thisclose to costing the Cardinal the game.

Voters should put Barkley over Luck on their ballots. But most won't, and it hurts both of them that two players with such similar resumes come out of the same region. If Barkley and Luck were from different parts of the U.S., it would be safe to assume that each would pick up almost all of the No. 1 votes in his area.

And that's what's important. Being fourth doesn't get you anything in the final vote, as voters only list their top three. Barkley needs to be a lot of people's third choice to be able to go to New York, because he's not going to get very many first-place votes.

Regardless, it looks like Griffin is going to win right now, and it looks like Luck is going to finish second or third in a close fight with Richardson. Keenum is no longer a factor after his implosion in Houston's loss to Southern Miss on Saturday.

Ball's numbers are impressive, but he doesn't have the national name Richardson or the two quarterbacks have. It's hard to envision many people putting him No. 1 on their ballots -- although he's arguably worthy of that. He's kind of like the Barkley of the running backs.

We'll find out Monday, when the finalist list is released. Voters are turning in their ballots as we speak.

About Barkley, it looks like he'll finish fourth in the country, which, of course, is going to spark talk that he should come back for his senior season as the Heisman favorite. But that's not what this is about.

This is what this is about: USC finished the season ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll. Its quarterback was clearly its best player, and he happened to finish the year on a hot streak for the ages.

That player should be a Heisman finalist.

Barkley should go to New York.

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