Our countdown of the top 25 players in 2012 continues.
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2012 numbers: Barkley passed for 3,273 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes, averaging 297.5 yards passing per game, second most in the Pac-12.
Preseason ranking: No. 1.
Making the case for Barkley: It was a bad season for USC and a not-so-good season for Barkley, the Pac-12 blog's preseason No. 1 player. And, yes, part of this does feel like a career achievement award. Still, Barkley's numbers were good, at least if they are separated from stratospheric expectations -- see: No. 12 national ranking in passing efficiency. As for the NFL draft this spring, Barkley still has a shot to be selected in the first round, though his stock definitely took a hit this season. His 36 TD passes, four more than any other conference QB, ranked fifth in the nation. In fact, his 32 TD passes against AQ conference foes was second most in the nation, just one behind West Virginia's Geno Smith. Barkley set a new Pac-12 record with 116 career TD passes, 17 more than former Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart. He turned in the most efficient passing performance in conference history when he completed 19 of 20 passes for 298 yards and six touchdowns and no interceptions (319.16 rating) in a 50-6 win over Colorado. He had two of the top passing performances in the conference, throwing for 493 yards against Arizona and 484 against Oregon. Yes, he played poorly in the shocking loss to Stanford, and he pressed down the stretch, throwing nine of his 15 interceptions in his final four games, which included the loss at UCLA that ended his season with two games to play. But the Pac-12 blog feels Barkley, nonetheless, remained one of the conference's elite players. And that a large share of the blame for Barkley's unsatisfying season falls on the guy calling the plays, Lane Kiffin.