Tako Tuesdays and the Mysterious Case of the Unfinished Business

IT'S RAINING MEN! HALLELUJAH, IT'S RAINING MEN, AMEN! - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Barkley forewent an almost-certain place in the first round of the NFL Draft to return for his senior season at USC, claiming to have "unfinished business". But what business exactly?

Let me start by saying that everybody has unfinished business. Take me for example. It's practically November and I still haven't done the spring cleaning I said I was gonna do in April; it was my sister's birthday last week and I haven't gotten her a present; I haven't been to the dentist in three years; and my LinkedIn profile is severely out of date. All of that notwithstanding, my problems pale in comparison to Matt Barkley; the pressures of being a freak athlete and national celebrity, with a big time payday every month, under the table from USC boosters just over the horizon in the NFL. That must weigh hard on a kid. And to make matters worse, his 2012 season at USC is not living up to the lofty expectations that were anointed by the national media; losses to Stanford and Arizona have left the Trojans out of the national title picture, and USC is no longer a lock to represent the South Division in the Pac-12 Championship game. So what business has Matt Barkley - lord of the talented and confusing, the evolutionary Jay Cutler - left to do?

  • Win a national title - deedleedleedleedleedleedleedleedlee wompwomp
  • Make it to a BCS Bowl - This can't happen without beating Oregon, probably won't happen without beating Oregon in December, and might not happen if Oregon State finishes the year with two losses. This one may have gone out the window with the Trojans' loss to Arizona.
  • Beat Stanford - Swing and a miss. Four straight losses to the Cardinal has to be the second strangest losing streak the Trojans currently sport (three straight losses in Corvallis, anyone?).
  • Win a Pac-12 Title - They have to get to the championship game first, and that isn't looking like such a sure thing anymore. USC still controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South, but so does UCLA, and Arizona lurks one win back of first, with the easiest remaining schedule in the Pac-12 and the tiebreaker over the Trojans. This week's Oregon game isn't a must-win for USC if they want a shot at a conference title, but it's pretty close.
  • Improve his draft stock - Debatable, but ultimately moot because the NFL no longer cares about college sucess, and Barkley has NFL measurables. Had he declared a year ago, he (most likely) would have ended up in Miami instead of Ryan Tannehill. So that will be the measuring stick this spring when Barkley is drafted. He should be the first QB off the board, so that's progress, right?
  • Break the Pac-12 career touchdowns record - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED EVERYBODY, LET'S GO HOME. Question: if a record falls in the Pac-12, and it happens against Colorado, does it really count?
Here's what scares me about this game, aside from the superstitious: this is it for Barkley and the Trojans. This season is already falling short of the media's lofty expectations, and it will really take a Pac-12 title to really consider this season a success. The road to a Pac-12 title goes through Oregon. So I wouldn't expect to see the USC team that currently leads the country in penalties. I wouldn't expect to see the Matt Barkley that has already thrown eight interceptions this year. I expect to see that team that came out and stomped all over Oregon in 2011, giving Chip Kelly the first black mark on his home record as a head coach. I expect USC's best effort, because this game could be the difference between a shot as a Rose Bowl berth, and a trip to the Holiday Bowl, complete with alumni grumbling. And I don't think a promotional appearance at the San Diego Zoo was exactly what Matt Barkley had in mind back at that podium last December.

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