For all the talk about Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield, the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, in all likelihood, is not a quarterback. No, it’s Saquon Barkley. He’s the best running back – and perhaps the best player – in all of college football.
Barkley posted a school-record 358 all-purpose yards in leading No. 4 Penn State to a 21-19 win against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium this past Saturday. He rushed 28 times for 211 yards (7.5 yards per carry), caught 12 balls for 94 yards, and had 53 kick-return yards.
It was jaw-dropping.
And yet, Barkley hasn’t given the Heisman Trophy much thought.
“I think it’d be nice for my coach, my running back coach, Coach (Charles) Huff,” Barkley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When I first came to this school, I set goals for myself as a player, and the Heisman was one of those on my list. I wanted to try to break every rushing record for Penn State and just leave a legacy here. I feel those goals are still intact. But as I grew older and I got more wisdom and playing more games and understanding football more, it’s more about the team. The Heisman Trophy is a special trophy. It’s a prestigious award, and if I was fortunate enough to win that award, obviously I would be so thankful. But I’m not really too focused on that award. I’d rather just win a national championship – and a Big Ten championship again – than have the Heisman award.”
That isn’t lip service, either. It’s the truth.
“I’m not just trying to say that to be humble; that’s just how I truly feel,” Barkley said. “Obviously I’m a competitor. I don’t go on SportsCenter and see what Mayfield’s doing or what other running backs or (what) Sam Darnold and those guys are doing. I just try to stay focused and live in the moment and enjoy the moment because you only get this opportunity once.”
Penn State missed the playoff in 2016 but certainly looks the part this season. Still, for all of Barkley’s heroics this past Saturday, Penn State needed a walk-off touchdown throw from Trace McSorley to escape with a win.
McSorley, who orchestrated a 12-play, 65-yard drive in 1:42, finished 31-of-48 for 284 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also ran 17 times for 61 yards.
By now, Barkley has come to expect these kinds of performances.
“He’s a winner,” Barkley said of McSorley. “(He’s got) ice in his veins. I joke with him all the time he’s been doing that since he was a freshman in high school. He’s won on all levels. I think Trace is one of the best players in college football, if not the best player in college football. He does a tremendous job leading his team and keeping that mindset and challenging his team to hold himself to that standard every single day. Without him, he wouldn’t be the team we are.”
Penn State hosts Indiana (2-1) this Saturday and plays at Northwestern (2-1) on Oct. 7.
Then things get really tough.
Following a bye, Penn State hosts No. 8 Michigan (4-0) on Oct. 21, plays at No. 11 Ohio State (3-1) on Oct. 28, and plays at Michigan State (2-1) on Nov. 4.
Barkley believes McSorley can lead the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Championship and beyond.
“We got to continue to keep grinding and continue to keep working,” Barkley said. “He’s going to continue to keep pushing us and continue to keep leading us. That guy’s special. He does a lot of special things on the field. He has that ‘it’ factor. Every time you’re on the field with that guy, whether you’re up 28 points or you’re down 28 points, the game’s never out of reach and the game’s never over.”
Kickoff against the Hoosiers is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET.