Stanford’s Luck has the edge over Barkley

first_imgWhen time expired, the freshman quarterback celebrated on the field with his teammates. He had just led his team to victory against the only remaining undefeated team in the Pac-10.The quarterback completed 12 of 20 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the 51-42 shootout. He did not throw an interception.The then-ranked No. 7 Oregon Ducks had few answers for stopping the freshman’s offensive unit, which led to a major upset.Before the game, Oregon’s secondary coach John Neal said the quarterback was the best his team would face all season and compared him to the great Brett Favre.Just weeks earlier, the freshman’s head coach had said in a press conference that he was “the best quarterback in the country.” That’s a heavy statement considering that Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are still playing — last time I checked anyway.But this quarterback didn’t disappoint last Saturday in his most important game of the season.Redshirt freshman Andrew Luck led the Stanford football program to its most resounding statement game in years.Around USC, we hear a lot about freshman quarterback Matt Barkley. We hear he might be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and definitely one of the best freshman quarterbacks at this time.But how about this question: Is he even the best freshman quarterback in the conference?Luck is a gifted athlete, with arm strength, accuracy and speed on the ground. In nine games this season, Luck has completed 126 passes for 2,076 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has only thrown three interceptions.Barkley’s stats look quite similar.During the eight games this season, Barkley has completed 125 passes for 1,839 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown seven interceptions.So if these two players are nearly identical stats-wise (and yes, Barkley has played in one less game), then why has Barkley gotten so much national attention when Luck has not?Both are freshman quarterbacks. Both are in the hunt for a Pac-10 championship. And both have the faith and trust from their teammates to lead them on the field.The answer is media coverage. USC gets way more national attention than any other program in the Pac-10 because of USC coach Pete Carroll and his program’s dominance throughout this decade.And there’s no argument there. Carroll and the Trojans have earned the respect and attention they receive. But does that mean Barkley is a better quarterback than Luck just because he plays for the Trojans?Nonsense.While the stats are pretty similar between the two quarterbacks, there are three advantages that give the slight edge to Luck in the debate over who is the best freshman quarterback in the Pac-10 heading into Saturday’s matchup.The first is fairly obvious. Luck has fewer interceptions than Barkley and leads the league in passing efficiency. Those are two pretty important stats for any quarterback.The second point is a crucial one as well.Luck did what Barkley couldn’t do against the Ducks. Luck brought his A-game last Saturday, and, with help from running back Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal defeated the Ducks in one of the program’s most significant wins this decade.Barkley’s team failed in Eugene, Ore. and failed badly, suffering the worst defeat during Carroll’s tenure.The argument can be made that Luck played at home against the Ducks and the Trojans traveled to Oregon, but considering how poorly the Trojans played, I don’t know if a home game would have made a difference.The third — and perhaps most important — point that gives the edge to Luck is his running game. Stanford’s quarterback has compiled 227 rushing yards this season and averages 5.2 yards per carry.Not only does Luck’s speed provide another offensive option for Stanford but it gives the defense another dimension to worry about on the other side of the ball.“He’s got a rushing average that most quarterbacks are lucky to have,” Carroll said. “So this is a very diverse football player.”Barkley, while very talented, is not blessed with the speed to take off down the field. In fact, he has a net of -15 yards rushing on the season, meaning defenses basically don’t worry about him taking off for a big gain.Even though these three factors favor Luck, I still think the debate is up in the air. But, it will be determined on the field Saturday at the Coliseum.Coming off arguably his worst performance of the season, Barkley will have something to prove in front of the home fans.Coming off the biggest win of his collegiate career, Luck will try to prove his program is ready to make the jump to the next level.Who will be the better quarterback?Sounds like a good homecoming game to me.“Soft Hands” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit or email Jon at [email protected]last_img read more