Both Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki showed off their skills with multiple touchdowns against Nebraska on Saturday, and now both are being named finalists for major national awards. On Monday, Barkley was named a finalist for the Doak Walker award for the country’s best running back along with Bryce Love of Stanford and Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin. Barkley and Love also made the cut for the Maxwell Award, which is given to the top college football player in the country. Heisman Trophy favorite Baker Mayfield is the third candidate for that honor.
Meanwhile, Gesicki was named a finalist for the Mackey Award — given to the best tight end in the country — alongside Wisconsin senior Troy Fumagalli and Oklahoma junior Mark Andrews. While Gesicki has the edge over both his fellow finalists when it comes to touchdown receptions with seven, he faces a significant disadvantage against Andrews in the receiving yards department. Andrews has 787 of those this season, including three 100-yard games, while Gesicki has just 466 yards on just one fewer reception.
Barkley’s chances to take home some hardware could come down to how well he plays in the final regular season game against Maryland. Although he gets smoked by Love and Taylor in rushing yards, he makes up a lot of the difference with his ability to catch the ball. Through the air, Barkley has 590 yards and three touchdowns compared to less than 100 yards and zero scores for both of his fellow Doak Walker finalists.
Even though Barkley could be the most versatile and athletic player in the nation, it’s hard to bet against Love for top tailback honors. Not only has he rushed for over 100 yards in nine of his 10 games this year, but he scored three touchdowns in an upset over Washington two weeks ago despite being limited by an ankle injury. That same injury forced him to sit out of an Oregon State game in which he could have padded his stats.
As for the Maxwell Award, Mayfield has made himself the heavy favorite by throwing for 34 touchdowns passes and just five interceptions this season, but he got himself in some hot water on Saturday when he acted inappropriately during a win over Kansas. As a result, the quarterback is not going to start the final regular season against West Virginia, and that could give Barkley or Love the opportunity to gain some ground in the award race.
No matter who takes home the hardware, Penn State fans have to be happy with the performances put forth by Barkley and Gesicki this season. Both players have been a major part of the Nittany Lions’ success and will be sorely missed when they move on to the professional ranks.