As if there was any doubt who the best player in college football is, Saquon Barkley answered every and all questions Saturday night. For a Penn State offense that surprisingly never hit its stride, Barkley proved again and again why he’s the most dangerous player in the country.
Saquon Barkley adding to his Heisman resumé pic.twitter.com/DkPRhRxn0d— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 24, 2017
And then Barkley did this on the next play. He was out at the 2. pic.twitter.com/Lc8sNe3Njx— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 24, 2017
28 carries for 211 rushing yards and one touchdown, to go along with 12 receptions for 94 receiving yards. Everything Penn State did revolved around No. 26, and despite Iowa’s constant adjustments to contain the Nittany Lions’ star back, there was just no stopping Barkley. Give the ball to Barkley, and watch the amazing happen — again and again and again. He torched the Hawkeyes with jukes and stiff arms, showed off his power and speed, and — once again — showed off those incredible hops. As Marcus Allen so eloquently put it, “Saquon’s a dog, and dogs do dog things.”
Although Trace McSorley’s strike to Juwan Johnson was the game-winning play for the Nittany Lions, make no mistake about it, Barkley was the reason Penn State came out victorious. The Nittany Lions have had their fair share of tremendous running back performances, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that matches what Saquon Barkley did Saturday night.
Through four games, Barkley is leading the Big Ten in rushing yards, receiving yards, and receptions. He has 518 rushing yards, which puts him on pace for 1,554 yards on the season (12 games). He’s hauled in 23 receptions for 335 receiving yards, quite literally absurd numbers for a running back. If he keeps up this pace out of the backfield, he’ll finish with 69 receptions (nice) and 1,005 receiving yards — again, as a running back. That’s 2,609 total yards without even taking into account his numbers on kickoff returns.
Heisman worthy? You bet.
While the Heisman trophy has become the best quarterback award — the last non-Alabama running back to win the award was Reggie Bush in 2005 — Barkley has firmly cemented his place as college football’s best player. Just ask James Franklin. Or Bruce Feldman. Or Rich Eisen. Or Ezekiel Elliot. Or Jemele Hill.
Of course, the Nittany Lions will need to continue to win. As tremendous as Barkley has been, a contending Penn State team will only help his cause. The three running backs who have won the Heisman since the turn of the century — the aforementioned Bush, Mark Ingram, and Derrick Henry — all played on teams that were set to play in the National Title or College Football Playoff. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, if Barkley continues his electric play, a playoff appearance might just be on the horizon.