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USC’s Matt Barkley back in Heisman talks as Trojans rise

USC cannot participate in a bowl game, but the Trojans returned to the top 10 Sunday and quarterback Matt Barkley is back in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

The Trojans’ upset victory at Oregon on Saturday pushed them up eight spots to No. 10 in the Associated Press media poll.

USC, ineligible for the Pac-12 Conference title and bowl games because of NCAA sanctions, finishes its season against UCLA on Saturday night at the Coliseum.

Barkley has passed for 33 touchdowns, so expect Coach Lane Kiffin to position the junior to tie or break Matt Leinart’s school-record of 38 if the opportunity arises.

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Leinart established the mark in 2003. He won the Heisman the next season, a fact Kiffin would no doubt use as a selling point to Barkley as he weighs whether to make himself available for the NFL draft.

Kiffin already thinks him worthy of a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist after Barkley passed for four touchdowns against Oregon.

“If you look at the way he’s played in big games and you don’t vote based off sanctions and probations and dark clouds, I don’t know how he’s not in New York,” Kiffin said Sunday. “If anything, it should help him, that he’s had all this stuff around him, and he’s still succeeded.”

So have the Trojans, who haven’t been ranked this high since Oct. 31, 2009, the night Oregon routed No. 4 USC, 47-20, at Eugene, Ore.

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USC erased those memories Saturday with what will be regarded as a program-turning victory if the Trojans close out the season by defeating UCLA.

Kiffin does not fear a letdown or anticipate problems motivating his players.

“I don’t think it will be hard at all knowing that here comes, to our kids, what is their biggest rivalry,” Kiffin said. “UCLA is playing great right now.”

USC played well for most of the game against Oregon, but Kiffin was disappointed that the Trojans staggered so badly in the fourth quarter.

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USC survived, however, ending the Ducks’ 21-game Autzen Stadium winning streak.

“Any time you end the nation’s longest home winning streak,” Kiffin said, “it’s tough to complain.”

Freshman linebacker Hayes Pullard, who made a game-high 14 tackles, wasn’t about to.

“We wanted to show everyone that this is what is coming next year,” he said.

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Postgame visitor

Kiffin complimented Oregon Coach Chip Kelly for his visit to the Trojans’ locker room after the game.

Kelly sought out Kiffin’s father, Monte, USC’s assistant head coach for defense.

“He came back because my dad was in the press box” at the end of the game, Kiffin said. “I think he came back to congratulate my dad.”

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Quick hits

Linebackers Lamar Dawson and Dion Bailey suffered ankle injuries against Oregon. Fullbacks Rhett Ellison and Ross Cumming, defensive lineman Christian Tupou and safety Drew McAllister also were sidelined for portions of the game because of injuries Saturday…. Kiffin, fined $10,000 by the Pac-12 for his comments about officials after the Stanford loss, treaded lightly when asked about a controversial intentional-grounding penalty that was called Saturday against Barkley. “I’m not negative,” he said. “I’m just saying I’ve never seen that at any level of football."…. Kiffin said the Trojans would wear traditional uniforms against UCLA and said of the Bruins, “I don’t really care what they wear.”

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein


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