Matt Barkley is loving life at USC, so why leave now? (Stephen Dunn/GETTY IMAGES)

In a nationally televised press conference — before a USC-themed Christmas tree and with the school’s marching band on hand — the 21-year-old standout announced his intention to return to Los Angeles.

“I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” Barkley said.

“The 2012 USC football team has some serious unfinished business to attend to and I intend to play a part in it.”

Barkley shattered numerous school records this fall, throwing for for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, completing 69 percent of his passes and leading the Trojans to a 10-2 record.

Projected by many to be a top-10 pick and one of the top two or three quarterbacks selected in the 2012 NFL draft, Barkley’s departure from the class will put more pressure on NFL teams searching for new franchise cornerstone at QB.

Barkley preserved a bit of drama with his remarks, stating his desire to play professional football and his belief that he is ready for that challenge.

“I am prepared to play quarterback in the NFL,” Barkley said. “It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL, and I intend to make that dream a reality.”

Barkley joins former USC star Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and most recently, Washington’s Jake Locker (now with the Titans) and near-consensus No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, as heralded quarterbacks who elected to return to school for their senior seasons.

Despite a stellar season, the Trojans were not bowl eligible as they continue to serve a two-year bowl ban handed down by the NCAA for numerous NCAA violations.

Some draft experts believe that Barkley could be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft — a chance Luck took last season, and one that appears it may have paid off.