Lane Kiffin Ushers in New Era of USC Football: Max Wittek to Start in Sun Bowl

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterDecember 27, 2012

Update: It was announced that Matt Barkley was not medically cleared in time to play in the bowl game

According to Los Angeles Times reporter Gary Klein, Matt Barkley will not play quarterback for the USC Trojans in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on December 31.

Lane Kiffin makes it official, Matt Barkley will not play in Sun Bowl. #USC

— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) December 27, 2012

The Trojans staff had been quiet on Barkley's status, but head coach Lane Kiffin did say he would announce Barkley's status after practice today. The fact that Barkley is not only not starting, but not playing, has some interesting storylines: Is Barkley still hurt or is he being held out to ensure his recovery for the upcoming 2013 NFL draft?

Or is there an alternative reason?

One player who will probably see an increase in Sun Bowl action is receiver Robert Woods, who, according to an NBC report, will announce his intentions of staying for another year or leaving for the NFL draft on Monday.

Barkley had appeared to be favoring sophomore Marqise Lee over Woods toward the end of the season: Lee has 1,608 reception yards while Woods has 813. When quarterback Max Wittek started against Notre Dame due to Barkley's injured shoulder suffered against UCLA the previous week, Woods had seven receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown compared to Lee's five catches for 75 yards. 

Wittek clearly likes playing toss-and-catch with Woods, so is Wittek's start against Georgia Tech an attempt to woo Woods into staying for one more year at USC? A sort of subliminal message to Woods in the form of, "Look what you could be missing if you declare for the draft"?

We may never know the answer, but one thing is for sure—USC's defense will have its hands full with Georgia Tech's option offense.

And USC will need all the offensive firepower it can muster up without Barkley under center.