Lane Kiffin praises Matt Barkley

LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans got a late start in pushing quarterback Matt Barkley for the Heisman Trophy, but the campaign has been in full swing over the past two weeks.

Coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Barkley deserves to be in New York when the trophy is unveiled Dec. 10 and that the junior quarterback compares favorably with Stanford's Andrew Luck and with past Trojans greats Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

"If Andrew Luck is favored to win it, there's no way you can't have Matt Barkley there because of what he's done," Kiffin said on "Max and Marcellus" on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles. "If you actually compare what they've done vs. the same teams, Matt's actually outperformed Andrew. That's with a bunch of new kids and all these freshmen around him playing.

"We had two Heisman-winning quarterbacks here before and, if you break down their seasons, Matt's season is actually better than both of them. It's pretty interesting."

Barkley, a draft-eligible junior, is No. 9 in the NCAA in passing efficiency, four spots behind Luck. He completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Luck completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Barkley and Luck faced seven common opponents -- Notre Dame and six Pac-12 schools. In those games, Luck completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 1,837 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Barkley completed 71.0 percent of his passes for 2,125 yards with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Many experts view the Heisman race as between Luck, the likely No. 1 overall pick in next spring's NFL draft, and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Unlike those two teams, USC's season is over because of NCAA sanctions prohibiting them from postseason play. The Trojans completed a 10-2 season with Saturday's 50-0 win over rival UCLA.

Kiffin said the NCAA sanctions actually motivated Trojan players before that game.

"The NCAA thing trickled back in," Kiffin said. "The success we were having and knowing we're right on the cusp of the championship game and a BCS bowl game. ... It crept back in, that anger toward it being taken away from 18- to 22-year-olds for something that happened when they were in fifth grade. We've said it before. It's just ridiculous."

Mark Saxon covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.