Barkley, though, won’t get to give a grand finale.
He won’t play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve because of a lingering injury to his right shoulder. Doctors didn’t clear him to play, coach Lane Kiffin said.
“It’s a tough day,” Barkley said. “As you heard from coach Kiffin I won’t be playing on the 31st. I’ve worked as hard as I could to get back for this game, but nature’s not allowing it and the doctors aren’t allowing it, which is the most important thing. They’re looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgment in how things have turned out.
Kiffin said Max Wittek will start. The redshirt freshman will be making his second career start.
“I’m still here for the guys and still trying to help Max and even Cody (Kessler), if he needs to play — to help those guys get ready and with the game plan. I’m trying to be here as much as I can for this team to finish strong.”
Barkley’s throwing shoulder was injured during USC’s second-to-last game against UCLA and he didn’t play in the season-finale against Notre Dame. Wittek started the game and the Trojans lost to the Fighting Irish to fall to 7-5 on the season.
“I know he wanted to play,” Kiffin said. “He wanted to finish on a good note. He’s not been hurt very much in his four years here, but unfortunately when he has he’s missed some really big games.”
Barkley was a celebrated prospect from southern California — he went to the same high school as Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart — who grew up dreaming of playing for USC. He won the starting job as a freshman in 2009, beat Ohio State on the road in second game of his career and appeared on the way to becoming a college football star to rival Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez.
Barkley went on to rewrite the Pac-12 record book during a USC-record 47 starts over four seasons, becoming the conference leader in touchdown passes, yards passing, completions and total offense.
But so much more was expected from him and the Trojans this season, when Barkley announced last January that he would return for his senior year.
Coming off a 10-2 season, and out of a two-year stay in NCAA jail for rules violations, USC started this season ranked No. 1 and a consensus national title contender. Barkley was the Heisman Trophy favorite and an almost certain high first-round NFL draft pick.
Neither he nor the Trojans could reach those high expectations.
Barkley was not bad. He threw for 3,273 yards in 11 games and 36 touchdowns. But he also threw 15 interceptions, the most since his freshman season.
“I’m at peace. Yeah, absolutely,” Barkley said. “I try to find peace in every situation. It’s not what I thought would happen, it’s not I don’t think the most ideal situation. But at the same time, I do have peace and I know that whatever the case is right now, I can make it into a great case come April (in the NFL draft), which is what my goal is now.”
He will end his career having played in the postseason just once. He led USC to a victory against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl in ’09 as a freshman.
Barkley, the only three-time captain in USC history, owns 20 school records and 10 Pac-12 records. He is the Pac-12’s leader in total offense (12,214), yards passing (12,327), completions (1,001), TD passes (116) and combined rushing and passing TDs (122). He’s also the only player in league history to have 2,500 yards or more of total offense four times.
“I think that Matt has had a great career here at USC,” Kiffin said.