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Hoonhout: Heisman Trophy is Saquon Barkley’s to lose

| Monday, October 9, 2017

Since his monster game against Iowa where he collected 358 all-purpose yards, Saquon Barkley has 36 carries for only 131 yards, and many people who called this Hesiman race over before it started are now starting to reconsider.

Which is ridiculous. Because Saquon Barkley is going to win the Heisman.

What separates Barkley from the rest is his ability to seemingly create nothing out of something. Take Saturday’s 31-7 over Northwestern for example.

After suffering through the first half where he finished with negative yards running the ball, Barkley broke the then 10-0 lead wide open with two scores in the third quarter, first a one-yard pile leaper and then a 53-yard burst to put a game away that Penn State was having trouble putting to bed.

Just when you think he’s not going to burn you, he does. Barkley’s game-changing ability is what makes him an undeniable contender for the Heisman, and he can do it on the ground, through the air and on special teams. He’s Penn State’s leading rusher and receiver, and his ability to affect games, regardless if he’s having a 300 or a 100-yard day, make him undeniably the reason why Penn State is ranked third in the country.

Barkley seems to be able to put the Nittany Lions on his back when they need him to, and his patience is remarkable for someone whose talent demands the ball. Take a look at his second touchdown from Saturday—despite having a quiet game, Barkley’s mental fortitude to sit behind the line and wait for the hole to develop instead of trying to make a play right away is exemplary. The game comes to him, rather than the other way around, and his craftiness and ability to play smart is what I think separates him from the bunch.

Take a look at his supposed fellow contenders, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield (but don’t forget about Josh Adams). While both are undeniably talented, they have both exhibited the fatal flaw of folding under pressure after a poor team performance — Jackson against North Carolina State and Mayfield against Iowa State this past weekend. While both still had relatively good performances, when it mattered most, they failed. Jackson threw a pick-six with his team trailing by a touchdown with three minutes to go, and Mayfield failed to lead his team down the field on a game-winning drive, throwing an incompletion on fourth-and-four.

All three are on teams that were dreaming of the playoff when the season started, but realistically, only Barkley’s team is still in the running. I’m a firm believer in a team’s performance factoring into an individual’s and vice versa, and Barkley’s calming aura seemingly has had an effect on the rest of his team, while Jackson and Mayfield have come up short in chances to help their teams stay alive in the playoff race.

While there’s still a lot of football left to be played, Penn State has as good a chance as anybody to run the gauntlet and be one of those four teams, and with the way Saquon Barkley has been changing games this season, that chance may turn into reality.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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