Not to rock the boat.
Not to be contrary.
Not to be a downer to all the longtime loyal Penn State fans as well the ever-expanding bandwagoners to the Love Ya Blue crew.
But Saquon Barkley may not be the best player in college football this season.
Let me explain …
If we’re talking about pro potential, about who would rank as the top candidate to star in the NFL out of all the supposedly unpaid players in the country right now, then, yeah, sure, he’s it. Or, at worst, arguably he’s it. At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, the junior running back is incredibly versatile package of power, shiftiness, balance and good – not blow-you-away, but good – speed.
He can run, he can catch, he can block, and, after Saturday’s late-game TD flip in a 45-14 runaway against Indiana, he has shown he can throw, too.
In short, he is about as surefire as surefire gets when it comes to projecting success at the next level.
That, however, really ain’t what the best player in college football is all about. That’s about performance, about production, about individual success, and while Barkley certainly ranks among the best there … well, he just might not be the best.
With a guy such as Stanford running back Bryce Love dwarfing him in rushing numbers and quarterbacks like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Mason Rudolph putting up ridiculous stats, he is not the clear-cut choice out there. Even now. Even after that 98-yard kickoff return against the Hoosiers and the school-record 358 total yards (rushing, receiving and returning) at Iowa the week before.
Frankly, got a hard time giving him the nod as best on his own teammate this season. For all the hullabaloo about Barkley’s effort vs. the Hawkeyes, the reality is … Trace McSorley won the damn game when it mattered. Almost all by himself. Handed a four-point deficit and just 1:42 to erase it, the Penn State quarterback was the essence of cool in directing a 12-play, 80-yard TD drive, capping it with a 7-yard scoring strike to Juwan Johnson as time ran out.
On fourth down, mind you – which accounted for half of the fourth downs McSorley converted on that kill-shot march in Ames. All told, he went 7-for-11 in that stretch, for 68 yards. For good measure, he ran once for 12 yards, too.
Yeah, sorry, just not ready to anoint Barkley as the official Heisman winner at this point of the 2017 season. The best player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft? Maybe.
But that’s something different.
This week’s Super Six …
Bryce Love, Stanford RB. If the vote were to be handed in today, he’d get my vote. Ripped off 301 yards rushing and 3 TDs in a 34-24 win against Arizona State. He’s already cleared 1,000 yards (1,088) for the season in just five games to lead the nation and also sets the pace for everyone with an 11.1 yards per carry clip. The week before he went off for 263 yards on his worst ypc day of the season, at 8.8. The guy delivers at least one home-run jaunt each week, as evidenced by his weekly bests of 62, 75, 53, 69 and 61 up to this point.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB. Didn’t player this past weekend, but he has an insane 228.3 rating while completing 75.2 percent of his passes for 1,329 yards (13.2 per attempt) and 13 TDs – with no picks. With so many big games left to shine, he’s probably in the best spot to ultimately take home the hardware.
Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB. His power, hands and balance are what excite me. Despite the hype really kinda waiting for the major explosion here. Don’t care if Indiana stacked the box against him. Still only rushed for 56 yards on 20 carries Saturday. Gotta do better to be the frontrunner.
Trace McSorley, Penn State QB. Think more highly of him than most. His ability to make big plays and to just win is hard to ignore. Threw for 315 yards and 2 TDs vs. the Hoosiers. Still kinda waiting for him to really bust out, too.
Josey Jewell, Iowa LB. OK, this guy is making a real case for a legit Heisman candidate on the defensive side of the ball. He was brilliant against Penn State even in defeat, racking up 14 tackles and snaring an interception, and this week in a 17-10 loss at Michigan State he had 15 tackles, including a sack.
Luke Falk, Washington State QB. Is tied with Rudolph for second in the country behind Rosen in regards to TD passes with 16, completes 74.5 percent of his passes and just led the unranked (but unbeaten) Cougars to a wild, 30-27 upset of No. 5 USC with 340 yards and 2 TDs passing.