Everyone recalls the anxieties of going away to college for the first time. What’s my roommate going to be like? How big is my dorm? What clothes should I bring? Then comes that fateful day when you actually walk on campus and are completely overwhelmed by the seemingly unimaginable task of leaving with a diploma in hand.
Now, recall what that feeling felt like but factor in a navy and maize sea of 111,000 people looking on as you try to spark a comeback against one one of the most storied institutions in college football, Notre Dame. This is exactly what Michigan true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier experienced as he received his baptism by fire leading the unranked Wolverines past the #18 Fighting Irish 38-34. However, Forcier wasn’t the only freshman phenom to dethrone a top team this past weekend. Just across the Michigan border in Columbus, Ohio, freshman quarterback, Matt Barkley, of the USC Trojans toppled the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes 18-15.
What was so incredible about the performances of these quarterbacks this past weekend was the poise that they showed in times of incredible duress that most other freshman quarterbacks would have crumbled under. Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez was so confident in Forcier that just before the end of the second half he let Forcier attempt a 4th-and-11 attempt near midfield….and he converted. Then again, in the fourth quarter Forcier caused the Big House crowd to go wild as he ran 31 yards for a touchdown on 4th-and-3! Facing a 34-31 deficit with two minutes left in the game things were starting to look bleak for the Wolverines. Forcier stormed the field completing first down after first down to drive the Wolverines to the Notre Dame doorstep. He dropped back and gunned a ball to wide receiver LaTerryal Savoy who let the ball slip from his grasp in the end zone. With seconds to go in the ball game, Forcier dodged about three defenders in the pocket and rifled another pass to wide receiver Greg Matthews in the end zone for the victory. On this epic drive, Forcier was a Tebow-esque six for seven passing with the only incompletion being Matthews’s dropped pass.
Meanwhile, Matt Barkley shouldered the national title dreams of the USC squad as he took the field at the Trojan 14-yard line down 15-10. Barkley’s first play resulted in a sack pinning the Trojans on their own five-yard line. From that point on, Barkley and junior running back Joe McKnight worked the Ohio State defense picking up chunks of yardage at a time as the USC offense made its way downfield. With one minute and five seconds left on the game clock in front of the biggest crowd in Ohio State football history, Barkley handed off the ball to senior running back Stafon Johnson for the touchdown to cap the 14-play, 86-yard drive. The Trojans held on to defeat the Buckeyes 18-15.
Michigan and USC have cemented their places as two of the top colleges with quarterback legacies and for freshman to step in and dominate the way Barkley and Forcier did is incredible. Forcier brings to mind the likeness of former quarterback Brian Griese, who while at Michigan started for three years and in his senior year led the Wolverines to an undefeated season and a share of the 1997 national championship. Likewise, the brazen Barkley has the confidence that evokes memories of the third-ever freshman to start at quarterback for USC, Matt Leinart. Prior to the game, Barkley told LA Times reporters, “This is easy. This is fun. This is what I was made to do.”
Forcier and Barkley now have the entire nation looking at them these two will undoubtedly quiet anyone downplaying their victories as mere flukes. Barkley’s next challenge will come in two weeks as the Trojans head to #8 Cal on October 3. Likewise, Forcier will look forward to the bitter conference rivalry against #5 Penn State on October 24 to prove his place as the savior of Michigan football. After two weeks both of these quarterbacks have temporarily filled voids in teams looking to return to greatness. USC is looking to make it back to the national championship after watching Florida assert itself as THE team in college football and Michigan is still having nightmares about its loss to Appalachian State. Surely, by the time this year is over college football fans will have two quarterbacks to replace the void left by senior quarterbacks Tim Tebow of Florida and Colt McCoy of Texas. Do I dare say that Forcier or Barkley may contend for the Heisman this year? That may be a stretch but I can assure you that in the next four years these two players will definitely solidify their cases as the kings of college football.