Barkley's sprained left ankle was wrapped in a bulky brace at practice Thursday, but it was clearly in much better shape than it had been at any point over the past week, with the sophomore quarterback taking snaps during all portions of practice and making solid throws.
"I would anticipate him starting," Kiffin said. "It'll be a decision as we get closer, but with the way he looked today..."
His participation in practice has increased daily since then. The brace team doctors assigned him to wear on his injured ankle is the same style former USC players Matt Leinart and Troy Polamalu wore when nursing similar injuries, Barkley said, and has proven successful.
"I thought he looked obviously by far the best he's looked since the injury," Kiffin said Thursday. "He did a lot of stuff today."
Barkley said he had not been "explicitly" told he would start the game, but indicated he plans on starting.
"It kind of looks like it," he said.
The hold up, he said, is regaining his mobility. He did not make any throws on the run during practice, although he said he practiced bootlegs at half-speed during warm-ups.
On the season, Barkley has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,593 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In the six quarters since he suffered the injury, backup Mitch Mustain has thrown just one touchdown and one interception.
USC has scored two touchdowns in that span.
Pedro Moura covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com.