Lane Kiffin says USC defense cost Matt Barkley the Heisman

Jamie Squire

Matt Barkley's poor season cost him a Heisman Trophy and a high draft choice, but Lane Kiffin says if his defense had been better, his team would've been better than 7-6, and Barkley would have some more hardware.

After his 2011 season, Matt Barkley was the Heisman frontrunner and likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Then USC's 2012 season happened, and, well, yeah, not so much. But as Barkley looks forward to being one of the top five quarterbacks off the board, Lane Kiffin wants to make sure teams know the blame shouldn't fall on Barkley -- rather, if his team's defense hadn't been so bad, Barkley would have been considered a much better quarterback.

Read more: Lane Kiffin going with offense-heavy three-coordinator system | Matt Barkley has unfinished business | Barkley wants to show off arm at USC Pro Day |

Kiffin told ESPN Los Angeleshe perceives a "huge under-appreciation" for Barkley amongst USC fans, and that NFL squads should know the fact that a team that was the preseason No. 1 sputtered to a 7-6 finish was not Barkley's fault:

I think he's going to be a great starting quarterback in the NFL, and the film shows it," Kiffin said. "The plays he makes, all the throws he's made here, the leadership qualities ... I've said this before: If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did.

"Thanks for this great defense you gave me, DAD. You ruin EVERYTHING."

Kiffin's right about one thing: USC's defense as good as it was with Palmer and Leinart. Those defenses were elite, whereas in 2012, they allowed 24.3 points per game, the 40th-best figure in the country. However, his argument falls apart when you consider that the offense scored 32.1 points per game -- also exactly 40th in the country.

There's no way to mask that Barkley had a worse year in 2012 than he did the year before. He had a lower completion percentage. And despite missing the season's final two games, he threw nearly twice as many interceptions, going from just seven in 2011 to 15 in 2012.

Meanwhile, somewhere, Geno Smith would like to talk to Lane Kiffin about teams with bad defenses ruining potential Heisman candidates' seasons.

More in College Football:

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SB Nation talks with Colorado's Mike MacIntyre

The best (and we mean worst) quotes from the Combine

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