A season that started with a No. 1 ranking, national champion hopes and a candidate for the Heisman trophy behind center ends Monday for the USC Trojans without their star quarterback against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
USC (7-5) takes on Georgia Tech (6-7) at 11 a.m. in a battle of unranked teams riding two-game losing streaks. USC will be without quarterback Matt Barkley, a Heisman hopeful whose decision to remain at USC for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft seemed to make the Trojans a lock for a BCS bowl game.
Barkley suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in USC's loss to UCLA -- an unfitting end to the Mater Dei High School grad's college career.
"It's been definitely a learning lesson, not something I could have imagined, but then again nothing is guaranteed," said Barkley. "When you strive for something, there are times when you're going to be disappointed. Knowing we were shooting for a very high goal, it just happens that way sometimes. But it doesn't take away from the fact of the experiences I've had."
Redshirt freshman Max Wittek will make his second start for the Trojans. Wittek was behind center in USC's 23-13 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame.
The Trojans, coming off a two-year bowl ban handed down as part of NCAA sanctions for rules violations, opened the season at 6-1 and looked to be in the Pac-12 race. But losses to Stanford and Oregon dashed any hopes of contending for a BCS bowl bid and a spot in the conference title game.
"We wanted to be in a better bowl game, and that's typical, but we decided our own fate and this is where we're at," receiver Marqise Lee told the Associated Press. "Things happen to the greatest teams out there. Sometimes situations happened where there's struggles, and that's what we had."