Penn State will need to make some more room in the Lasch Building trophy case. On Monday, the Associated Press announced its own All-Conference teams, selecting Saquon Barkley as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (and First Team All-Big Ten at running back) and head football coach James Franklin as the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year. It is the second such award for James Franklin, who was honored by the Big Ten media at large as the David McClain Coach of the Year. Barkley was a unanimous first team honoree.
The AP announcement comes on the heels of a remarkable Nittany Lions victory in the Big Ten Championship Game over an eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers team that featured key performances from both men. James Franklin is the head coach of the hottest team in college football, winning 9 straight games, including two victories over teams in the top ten, en route to winning the Big Ten Conference over second-ranked Ohio State and sixth-ranked Michigan. Barkley scored twice, once in the ground and once through the air, against the Badgers, topping 100 all-purpose yards against the third-best defense statistically in college football. Barkley was also previously named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, it’s Running Back of the Year, and First Team All-Big Ten by both conference media and coaches. He finished the pre-bowl season with 1302 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
The AP additionally honored quarterback Trace McSorley and kicked Tyler Davis, naming each to its All-Big Ten Second Team. Davis was one of the country’s finest placekickers, converting on 22 of 24 attempts on the year, including all 3 over 40 yards. McSorley ended the year with explosive performances against both Michigan State (17/23, 376 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Wisconsin (22/31, 384 yards, 4 touchdowns), and is likely to be one of the favorites (alongside Ohio State’s JT Barrett) for first team honors next year.
All in all, not a bad year for a team that most thought would be lucky to finish 8-4. Barkley, McSorley, and Davis will all have one final chance to impress fans this season when Coach Franklin leads them into the Rose Bowl to face the ninth-ranked Trojans of the University of Southern California on January 2, 2017.