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Player to Watch: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley

Why not write about the guy that’s put up 508 yards in the past three weeks?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue
This actually looks like a high school game.
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

After a week hiatus from football, Player to Watch is back in your Wednesday life, this time with Penn State running back and the Big Ten’s leading rusher, Saquon Barkley.

The sophomore from The Bronx is averaging a clean 111 yards per game, which ranks less than a sixth of a yard behind Christian McCaffrey, in case you were wondering what our old friend is up to out on the left side of the country.

If Barkley wasn’t a name to know on the national stage prior to Penn State’s past three games, he is now. He went for 202 yards against Maryland, 99 in the huge win against Ohio State, and another 207 last week when the Nittany Lions hung 62 on Purdue. Aided largely by his performance, Penn State debuted at No. 12 in the CFP Rankings Tuesday.

One more interesting note about Barkley and Penn State before we get to the tape — even though the 5-11, 223-pound back is the conference leader on the ground, his team comes in at the No. 12 spot in the conference in rushing, with a modest 161.5 yards per contest.

Time to take a gander at a few plays and see what makes the sophomore so dangerous.

Granted, it’s against Temple, and the center mugged his guy, but this run is stupid perfect, meaning Barkely literally did zero things wrong on this play. He displays great patience as the offensive line creates space, is unnaturally quick, makes guys miss without losing a lick of speed, has tremendous knee drive — we could go on and on.

It’s a good starting point for this study into Barkley, who will facing Iowa’s middle-of-the-road rushing defense which allows 153.75 yards per game, good for the seventh spot in the Big Ten.

The more and more Barkley highlights I watch, the more and more I fall in love with him. And that’s saying something coming from a person who hates Penn State. I’m not only super impressed with the hurdle here, but he shifts in and out of cuts more effectively than lots of running backs around the Big Ten.

I don’t have any numbers to specify this, but from what I’ve seen in these videos, some more around the internets, and the limited Penn State I’ve watched on TV this season, James Franklin and Company love running Barkley on draws out of the shotgun, which poses a challenge for the Hawkeyes.

If this is the case against Iowa, the defensive line and inside linebackers are going to need a big day to slow Barkley down. They can’t get beat at the point of attack and have to stick to sound, fundamental football. The front seven are especially important as we’ve seen issues with Brandon Snyder and Miles Taylor making tackles in run support or generally any ball-carrier in front of them.

The bottom line for Iowa’s success against Barkley and the Penn State offense is tackle, tackle, and tackle some more. Arm tackling for selling out for a big hit simply won’t get the job done against this running back.

With that said, let’s watch this and hope it’s Akrum Wadley doing this to the Penn State defense, not Saquon Barkley to Iowa’s.