Trojan fans have had a lot riding on Barkley since his first down of football as a freshman. And he's no doubt the most talented signalcaller in the Pac-12 South. But Stanford's Andrew Luck might have the advantage over Barkley in the entire conference--or over the entire country for that matter. In terms of statistics, Luck had 32 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions last season. On the other hand Barkley had 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, a completion rate of 62.6 percent, 8 points lower than Luck (70.7) but a few points higher than his 2009 season where he recorded 14 interceptions.
But fortune might surround Barkley more than it did last season. At Pac-12 Media Day Barkley was noticeably excited when he mentioned his "arsenal of weapons" ranging from the redshirt prized recruit Kyle Prater to veteran Robert Woods and every receiver in between. USC's receiving core is so talented it enables Barkley to get more looks and see more opportunity down the stretch. Then again, the inconsistencies surrounding a depleted offensive line may cause him to react quicker and add even more pressure.
Despite the capable personnel, it will be up to Barkley to show that he is either NFL-ready (if he so chooses) or worthy of a Heisman Trophy nomination. His confidence speaks volumes, and his leadership is unquestionable. But the question looms whether he can impress for 48 quarters of football.
"Will the pass defense improve drastically?"
USC's pass defense last year was, quite simply, terrible. In 2010, the Trojans allowed the most passing touchdowns per game in the Pac-12.
Where there is hope is in the depth chart. USC has a greater number of linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties at its disposal than last year. And with T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey, Chris Galippo and even Shane Horton providing that extra amount of leadership, the confidence when defending the passing game will surely rise.
With Devon Kennard moving to the line at defensive end, Chris Galippo is expected to be a playmaker at the middle linebacker position and become a more consistent player.
Nickell Robey admitted he was still learning "as he was going" last season when named to start as a true freshman. Fortunately that year under his belt will be immensely helpful in close situations this season.
The same can be said for safety T.J. McDonald, now an upperclassman. McDonald has learned what is expected of him after last season's travails and has been one of the most vocal Trojans this offseason.
USC allowed 278 complete passes in 2010. If they can monopolize on last year's learning-season, if their linebackers can bring more pressure in blitzing situations and the secondary increases the tempo and becomes more fluid with one another, USC's pass defense could improve drastically. But those are a lot of "ifs."