As senior quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy compete against each other weekly in the stat column for a Heisman Trophy, the battle in the Coliseum Saturday may mark the future fight for the trophy. USC's freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and Stanford's redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck have not only made the highlights because they are young but because their play is indicative of a new trend in college football.
These young guys can flat out play.
"When you have Matt playing as a freshman and the guys jumping up like they are, it's a big indication that the offenses are going to be huge for the next few years," Pete Carroll said. "It's why the conference has looked so strong all year. There are some quarterbacks playing well that we didn't even think were going to play. So they've really proven it, and I think we've probably changed the expectations for young quarterbacks being able to come in and be factors right off the bat."
When Carroll named Barkley the starter before the Trojan's season opener, the airwaves and the Internet lit up about his decision. After beating Ohio State on the road en route to a 7-1 record as a starter, the young quarterback has quieted the critics. Despite all that, Barkley may be only the second best freshman quarterback on the field Saturday. Luck leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and is second in total offense.
"He's as good right now as anybody we've faced," Carroll said. "They've allowed him to come out and go for it and when you add their running dimension with that kind of passing attack, it really makes it a challenging offense. He throws the ball on the run really well, he's a big pocket guy and he's running well. We're catching him at his very best."
3rd Down Concern
Third downs have been a concern all year for the Trojans, and the struggles continued against Arizona State as USC was just 2-for-13. That unimpressive number puts the Trojans 106th in the country in third down conversions.
"It hasn't been good enough," Carroll said. "We have to really make sure that our focus is on it.
"Third down always comes to guys in one-on-one situations. So, often you can set up your third-down package to focus on a couple of guys, and that really hasn't come together for us as well as we'd like."
The recent struggles have coincided with the loss of tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili. McCoy will do light work Tuesday afternoon while Carroll said Havili will start against Stanford. While those key players will help on third down, Carroll knows no matter what it will come down to good execution, something they haven't seen quite yet.
"It's taking us more time than we'd like," Carroll said. "With Matt's (Barkley) newness and just the familiarity of stuff, that's where were still behind so we're trying to catch up as we go here."
Two years ago, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh made waves for saying he thought Pete Carroll would leave for the NFL in the near future. Now the tables have turned as several people have talked about Harbaugh possibly being a name that could surface on the NFL radar with possible openings.
"I think Jim would do a great job in the league," Carroll remarked laughing. "Obviously it's in the family, his brother's doing fine. You're either competing or you're not."