BILL PLASCHKE

USC's Marqise Lee has no equal in college football

Sophomore receiver, who leads the Trojans to a 38-17 victory over Arizona State, deserves to win the Heisman Trophy but won't have the chance because of USC's record.

  • Pin It
Deflate the balls until they are prunes, switch the jerseys until Lane Kiffin is wearing one, and it still won't detract from one undeniable USC truth.

Marqise Lee is the best college football player in the country.

Talk about firing the coach, rip the defense so bad that Mike Brown applies to replace Monte Kiffin, and there is still only one undebatable USC conversation.

Marqise Lee deserves the Heisman Trophy, and would actually have a chance of winning it if the Trojans had won more games.

During a rare break from a controversy-filled autumn, Lee reminded everyone Saturday what should have been this team's narrative all along. While his team took a deep cleansing breath in a 38-17 victory over Arizona State, Lee continued to take away everyone else's breath, one play at a time.

"He's good," said Sun Devils safety Alden Darby, who couldn't help himself and said it again. "He's good."

Where should we start? How about 45 minutes before the game, when Lee walked into Kiffin's office with a face swollen and eyes nearly shut from an apparent food allergy.

"It looked like I was in a boxing match and I lost," Lee said.

How should we end? How about the sophomore receiver battling the lethargic effects of the reaction to gain 227 all-purpose yards, a category in which he already leads major-college football. He lost a fumble on the Trojans' first offensive play, then spent the rest of the game making the Sun Devils lose their minds.

"I felt like I wasn't running as fast as I could," Lee said. "I mean, they were about to catch me, man!"

About to catch him? Like everyone else who has chased him across America's football fields for the last couple of months, the Sun Devils weren't even close. Lee scored a touchdown after catching a Matt Barkley pass around midfield and outrunning two defenders. Lee averaged 11 yards per carry the six times he ran the ball. And then there was his most amazing play of the afternoon, so jaw-dropping that it didn't matter he didn't score.

"It was a reverse, but he reversed the reverse," said Barkley, perfectly describing the indescribable.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Lee took a pitch from Barkley, ran left and found himself stuck in traffic deep in the backfield. He shrugged and ran in the other direction, sprinting around or shaking off several defenders before being dragged down on the right sideline 38 yards away.

"It was good blocking," chirped the constantly cheerful Lee, who unselfishly always says it is good blocking even when there is no blocking. "No, really, this time, even Matt Barkley threw the last block."

Um, Matt?

"I got in the way," Barkley said. "My strength coach gave me an 'A' for effort but an 'F' for style."

Lee has pretty much aced the season, and in more classes than just receiving and running.

How about psychology? The Sun Devils were so afraid to kick off to him, they squibbed the ball each time, helping the Trojans to an average starting field position of their own 42-yard line. And on the one play when Lee was inserted into the game as a safety — yeah, he's going to play some defense in these final weeks — the Sun Devils were so flummoxed they were assessed a penalty for delay of game.

"You kind of expect greatness from him every time he touches the ball," Barkley said.

  • Pin It

Local & National Video