Can Matt Barkley beat the SEC?

A look at how the USC QB would fare in the SEC, and if he'll win it all in '12

Updated: March 28, 2012, 3:28 PM ET
By Brock Huard | ESPN Insider
Montgomery-Barkley-LesterUS PresswireWould Matt Barkley fare well against elite SEC defenses like LSU's and Alabama's?

Do you recall our "chicken or the egg" SEC debate from last season? If not, here's a refresher: While the SEC is a conference full of elite defenses, I believe that the league's less-than-stellar quarterback play inflated its defensive reputation by a bit last season. Terrific defensive play certainly makes it harder for a QB to be successful, but inexperienced and ineffective signal-callers likewise make it easier on defenses. (And seeing as how Arkansas' Tyler Wilson led the league in passer rating while finishing only 23rd in the nation last season, it's safe to say it was a down year for quarterbacking in the SEC.)

I'll offer this in support of my argument: We've seen elite SEC quarterbacks before. Current NFLers Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and even Ryan Mallett proved that it's possible to post big numbers against the best defensive units in college football.

I'm not yet ready to write off this season's crop of SEC passers, as there are some promising talents in the bunch -- the Georgia Bulldogs' Aaron Murray, the Missouri Tigers' James Franklin and the Tennessee Volunteers' Tyler Bray all made my list of the "next star QBs" last season, and the likes of Wilson, AJ McCarron (Alabama), Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Connor Shaw (South Carolina) have potential.

But this discussion of elite quarterback play relative to the defensive dominance of the SEC has me looking past that crop of quarterbacks and instead asking a different question, one that could come into play next January: What would happen if Matt Barkley played in the SEC?

• College football analyst for ESPN
• Six-year NFL QB and three-year starter at University of Washington
• Co-host of the Brock and Danny Show on ESPN 710 AM in Seattle