Barkley can be better than Luck

Matt Barkley lagged behind Andrew Luck in 2010, but that could change this year. US Presswire, Icon SMI

One of the most perplexing parts about the sports world is how fast perceptions can change.

Bill James noted an interesting example of this in his groundbreaking book, "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?" Going into the 1941 season, Jerry Priddy and Phil Rizzuto were both considered up-and-coming talents, with Priddy thought to be the better of the two.

A slow start at the plate put Priddy on the bench, and after he complained it got him traded and forever altered how the world viewed his achievements. Over the course of the rest of their respective careers, Priddy often outplayed Rizzuto, but Rizzuto ended up becoming a New York legend and a Hall of Famer while Priddy became a historical footnote.

A similar dynamic may be developing between USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck.

Two years ago, Barkley was seen as being such a high-upside prospect that ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper said he could become the eventual No. 1 pick. Luck was also seen as a terrific prospect when he was recruited, but some believed he wasn't even the top quarterback coming out of the Houston area at the time, with Darron Thomas, now starting QB for the Oregon Ducks, hailing from the same region.

Those viewpoints have now changed dramatically. Luck was first-team All-Pac-10 last year, is one of the leading candidates for the 2011 Heisman Trophy and has the inside track to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

By contrast, Barkley's stock has fallen off enough that he wasn't even nominated to the second-team Pac-10 All-Conference quarterback spot.

As quickly as Barkley's reputation changed for the worse, a closer look at the situation shows an avenue that he could take in 2011 to turn those tables back in his favor and propel him to play at Luck's level -- and perhaps even surpass him as the conference's best QB.