Bragging rights wasn’t the only thing on the line when USC took on crosstown rival UCLA. Senior quarterback Matt Barkley took the field at the Rose Bowl subconsciously knowing that some will define his legacy at USC by the outcome of that game.
Failing to meet expectations this season may have put a dent in his legacy as a Trojan, but it didn't break it. Despite it being a season that started with Heisman hopes, and it with Barkley not suiting up in (possibly) his last game (if USC receives an invite to a Bowl affair, Barkley could play) as a Trojan.
"To not be able to suit up and be with my guys is going to suck," said Barkley after the Nov. 20 practice referring to their game against No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. "But I don't think one game will define my time at USC."
Losses to Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame have left fans wondering and asking: What was the point of Barkley coming back to play in his final year of eligibility?
In a season that was surrounded by a theme of "unfinished business" has left more undone than before. But Barkley knows that although football may be a passion in his life, it doesn't define it.
"I took a chance," said Barkley, "It didn't turn out the way I planned, but I think over the last four years, especially this year, I've learned so much, grown [and] matured a lot...I don't regret it one bit."
His legacy as a USC football player may not have ended the way he wanted, but his legacy as a Trojan is still intact and strong. A Trojan is defined as someone who is faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious - a definition Barkley exemplifies.
But in terms of football, Barkley has arguably let down USC fans that hoped for a BCS title game; however, he has done a lot more off the field. Aside from having a degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, during the offseason he has traveled to Haiti to build homes and transport supplies to orphanages and schools. Along with his family, he's also volunteered in Nigeria, South Africa and Mexico.
He's given fans some of the greatest games, been a role model for what it means to be a student-athlete (emphasis on student), broken and set Pac-12 and USC records. This proudly represents what it is to be a Trojan.
In a Los Angeles Times article, Barkley said the music the Trojan marching band plays is "inspirational," and there's no other place he'd rather be than at USC.
The support he gives his teammates and his volunteer work during the offseason speaks volumes of his character. While his reputation at USC is tarnished, his character isn't, and as John Wooden once said, "Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
As Barkley's era comes to an end at USC, his successor Max Wittek's is just beginning.
Barkley told USC Athletics that once he realized he wasn't going to play, he texted Wittek, "Get Ready. Let's go beat the Irish."
But the Trojans lost to the Fighting Irish, 22-13, on Nov. 24.