LOS ANGELES -- USC quarterback Matt Barkley said Tuesday that one commonly-cited potential aspect of his decision whether or not to return for his senior season with the Trojans will actually bear very little role in his final choice.
Barkley, the Trojans' junior signal-caller who's rising up draft boards in recent weeks after leading his team to a road upset of Notre Dame and a near-win over Stanford, said he does not put much stock in the fact that the Trojans will be eligible for a bowl game in 2012 for the first time since his freshman season in 2009.
Rather, he's more likely to be swayed by the amount of talent USC returns across the board next season, including starting receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, leading rusher Curtis McNeal and both top tight ends.
"I think it's a little blown out of proportion, the whole bowl game thing (as) a big reason to come back," Barkley said in an interview on Seattle radio station KJR-950. "I think the main reason is just the special group of guys that we'll have next year and the opportunity that we'll have."
"The reality is that four hours, one day, is a bowl game. That one game, I don't think will be a whole lot," Barkley said. "But the fact that we have so many great players coming back and we really can do something special next year, I think that would be more of a motivating factor."
Barkley, 21, is, of course, eligible to declare for the draft at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Most draft experts currently have him rated as the No. 2 draft-eligible quarterback, behind only Andrew Luck of Stanford. And some prognosticators have had him as high as the No. 2 player overall, regardless of position.
But the talk has really heated up of late, and Barkley and his head coach -- second-year man Lane Kiffin -- have gotten question after question about his upcoming decision.
After Friday's 42-17 win over Colorado, Barkley fielded a number of questions from reporters about his ceremonial leading of the school's marching band. Many thought his decision to climb the ladder and lead the band was an indicator that he was leaning toward leaving, as former quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez did that only in their last games as Trojans, but Barkley quickly squashed that by saying he had done it twice before -- including at UCLA at the end of last season.
He laughed it off at the time, but it's clear he and Kiffin are weary of a potential distraction in the season's final three weeks because of the non-stop questions.
"It is amazing the amount of articles and attention to this decision in the middle of the year as opposed to just about how great he's playing or the team or all those things," Kiffin said Tuesday, in an interview on 710-ESPN's "Max and Marcellus." "He said it perfectly. It's going to be at the end of the year.
"Obviously we're gonna support him in whatever decision he makes and I think he can't go wrong."
Barkley has often spoken of finishing his college career off with a "bang," and winning the final three games this season would certainly qualify as a bang. The Trojans face Washington this week, who they've lost to in back-to-back years, and Oregon next week.
He was again asked about that topic again after the Trojans' Tuesday's practice, saying the outcome of USC's final three games could "possibly" affect his decision -- as in, whether to stay or go.
"I said I want to finish this season with a bang so that decision's an easy decision, not so that I can leave with a bang and get out of here and leave on that note," Barkley said. "But we still have three games left, and that's a lot of football.
"Come December I'll have a lot of time to think about it."
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.