Matt Barkley is 7-1 as USC's starting quarterback, a heady accomplishment for any player, especially a freshman.
But Barkley, after struggling in the second half of a loss at Oregon two weeks ago, had another subpar performance in USC's victory at Arizona State on Saturday.
In the last six quarters, Barkley is 12 for 38 for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The USC offense has scored only 10 points during the span.
Coach Pete Carroll acknowledged Barkley did not play well against Arizona State, but he is not concerned.
"I'm not worried about it a bit," Carroll said Sunday night.
Struggles against Arizona State are nothing new for USC quarterbacks.
Mark Sanchez, for example, lost a fumble and had three passes intercepted in the third quarter last season against the Sun Devils.
Barkley, facing the top-ranked defense in the Pacific 10 Conference, was seven for 22 for 112 yards with an interception Saturday. Most of the passing yards came on a short completion that Damian Williams turned into a 75-yard touchdown.
But winning apparently changes perception.
Aaron Corp, for example, was criticized after completing 13 of 22 passes for 110 yards with an interception in USC's 16-13 loss at Washington on Sept. 19.
Carroll said USC's offensive struggles are the result of "a bunch of contributing factors."
"It's the people we're playing, games we're playing in," Carroll said. "I don't think that it's Matt at all. I think it's what's going on around him."
Barkley and the Trojans continue to be handicapped by the absence of senior tight end Anthony McCoy, who sat out a second consecutive game because of an ankle sprain.
Sophomore Blake Ayles has dropped probable touchdown passes in each of the last two games and sophomore Rhett Ellison also has had problems catching the ball.
On Saturday, Barkley also was under pressure from the Sun Devils' pass rush, particularly end Dexter Davis. Arizona State sacked Barkley once and twice made hits that nearly resulted in interceptions.
"Their ends were getting really wide," Barkley said after the game, "so it was kind of hard to feel them because you can't really see them out of your peripheral" vision.
The Trojans, who converted only four of 14 third downs against Oregon, were two for 13 against Arizona State.
"I'm sure he's doing everything he can and pressing to come through and make his plays," Carroll said of Barkley, adding, "Third downs and red zones are always the hardest for new quarterbacks."
Carroll is not surprised Barkley has had peaks and valleys.
"It's gotten a little tougher the last couple of weeks," Carroll said. "He's working his way through it. He could have had five games of valleys and he didn't."
USC moved from 12th to ninth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Stanford's victory over Oregon, which routed USC, sent the Ducks tumbling below USC in the BCS standings and polls.
"You're kidding," Carroll said. "I think that's a crazy stat. . . . That doesn't make sense to me at all."
Oregon's loss made the Trojans' defeat at Eugene even more painful for Carroll.
"It's frustrating to think we played so miserably against those guys," he said.
Williams suffered what was initially diagnosed as a high-ankle sprain, Carroll said. Williams' status will be evaluated this week. . . . Linebacker Shane Horton, who started in place of injured Malcolm Smith, and defensive linemen Derek Simmons and DaJohn Harris were among the defensive players who played well at Arizona State, Carroll said.