Saxon: Matt Barkley could be the greatest

LOS ANGELES -- By the Cal game, Lane Kiffin figured he was gone. By the Oregon game, he wasn't quite as sure. After he saw him climb into the USC student section for the second week in a row, after a 50-0 win over UCLA, he was beginning to seriously wonder.

"I just kind of thought, watching him, 'He doesn't want to leave,' " Kiffin said.

He didn't, and the lure of fast money wasn't going to change his mind. Here's the thing about the Barkley family of Newport Beach, which showed up and sat in the front row for Matt Barkley's surprise decision to return to USC for his senior season Thursday: It's a religious group, but with a worldly education. It has deep USC roots (his dad went here, as do his twin siblings), but it knows exactly what Matt was giving up.

Once he'd had all the evaluations, projections, spread sheets and pie charts sorted out, it was time to retreat.

"He stepped back. He went quiet," said his dad, Les. "He thought about it, he prayed about it and, when he decided, he was absolutely firm."

This was not a decision Matt Barkley arrived at rashly. It's just that he tends to do things ahead of you or me, or anybody else. Before he got to USC, no true freshman quarterback had ever started an opener. By the time he's done here, the USC record book will look like a family album.

For Mark Saxon's complete column for ESPN Los Angeles, click here.