Freshmen highlight Saturday's big games 

September, 13, 2009
Matt Barkley may lead USC to the national title game this year. Who knows? Someday he may even win a Heisman Trophy. This fall, his coaches have gushed about his talents and poise, comparing him to star QBs ranging from Peyton Manning to Jay Cutler to Tom Brady. On Saturday night, Barkley led a fourth-quarter, game-winning touchdown drive that began at his own 14-yard line, and did it in front of the largest crowd in Ohio State history. Calling him impressive would be an understatement. Still, the true freshman quarterback from Southern California that I thought was the star of Week 2 was Michigan's Tate Forcier.

There is a fascinating juxtaposition here: Whereas Barkley is a sturdy 6-2, 230 pounds, Forcier is a wiry 6 feet and maybe 185. When people first see Barkley in person, they remark how solid he looks. They're wowed. Like out of Central Casting wowed. When people first set eyes on Forcier, they find him even smaller than they expected. Forget wiry; maybe scrawny. Barkley's teammates see him as "the Golden Boy." Forcier's peg him as goofy. Yet so far, the kid has been an absolute strongman, lifting the Wolverines program out of the muck.

As for those allegations of players being overworked and of a fractured fan base chaffing about whether Rich Rodriguez is the wrong guy for Michigan? Um, who exactly is grousing now?

To read more about the revitalization of the Wolverines, and get Feldman's take on the rest of a busy Saturday of college football, you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider