Looking for another reason to jump on the Saquon Barkley-for-Heisman campaign bandwagon?
Heck, we’ll give you three:
1. Indiana, Nov. 12. The Hoosiers’ rush defense: ninth in the Big Ten (174.0 yards allowed per game; 4.1 per carry)
2. Rutgers, Nov. 19. The Knights’ rush defense: last in the Big Ten (261.1 per game, 5.7 per carry)
3. Michigan State, Nov. 26. The Spartans’ rush defense: eighth in the Big Ten (166.3 per game, 4.1 per carry)
Penn State’s last three opponents. And three more chances to feast.
Barkley, the Nittany Lions’ sophomore tailback, has already faced two of the league’s bottom five run-stopping units in Maryland (No. 12) and Purdue (No. 13) and torched the living snot out of both. No. 26 rolled for 202 yards on 31 carries versus the Terps and piled up 207 on 18 totes against the Boilermakers in West Lafayette.
Last weekend, the 5-foot-11, 223-pound Barkley also became the first Nittany Lions back to put together two 200-yard rushing games in the same season since Larry Johnson in 2002. Barkley is on a pace to finish a 12-game regular season with 1,332 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. No Penn State back has topped 1,330 on the ground since Tony Hunt in 2006 (1,386 rushing yards). And no Lions runner has accounted for more than 12 rushing scores since the aforementioned Johnson racked up 20 in 2002.
While Barkley’s at the head of the pack, the race among the league’s other top workhorses is a bit more compact. Here are Land of 10’s ranking of the league’s top running backs after Week 9:
10 (tie). Shannon Brooks, Minnesota (Previous: tied-9)
Last week: 12 carries, 59 yards, 1 rushing TD; no catches
Season: 93 carries, 472 yards, 5.1 ypc, 5 rushing TDs; 3 catches, 24 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Why he’s here: Short fields limited the volume work in Champaign, but opportunities shouldn’t be a problem against the Boilermakers. Purdue is giving up 250 rushing yards a contest and 5.8 yards per carry, which rank No. 13 and last in the league, respectively.
10 (tie). LeShun Daniels, Iowa (Previous: tied-9)
Last week: Bye
Season: 119 carries, 624 yards, 5.2 ypc, 6 rushing TDs; 5 catches, 28 receiving yards
Why he’s here: Of Daniels’ 13 runs on third down, nine of them — 69.2 percent — have wound up moving the chains.
9. Terrell Newby, Nebraska (Previous: 8)
Last week: 17 carries, 77 yards, no rushing TDs; 1 catch, 0 receiving yards
Season: 120 carries, 588 yards, 4.9 ypc, 4 rushing TDs; 12 catches, 89 receiving yards
Why he’s here: Like a lot of featured backs, found the sledding tough against a salty Badgers defense. Carried six times during the Big Red’s final two scoring drives of regulation for 24 yards and one first down.
8. Ty Johnson, Maryland (Previous: tied-10)
Last week: 13 carries, 142 yards, 1 rushing TD; 1 catch, 6 receiving yards
Season: 60 carries, 624 yards, 10.4 ypc, 4 rushing TDs; 9 catches, 135 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Why he’s here: Because the sophomore’s averaging a crazy 11.0 yards per offensive touch. He’s already crossed the century mark three times in league play, although a trip to Michigan figures to be Johnson’s toughest test yet.
7. Akrum Wadley, Iowa (Previous: 7)
Last week: Bye
Season: 90 carries, 636 yards, 7.1 ypc, 8 rushing TDs; 18 catches, 188 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Why he’s here: Kirk Ferentz has vowed to get Wadley on the field more, and for good reason: No Big Ten back with at least 50 carries on first down is averaging more yards per carry on first-and-10 than Wadley’s 8.38 — or scored more touchdowns (6).
6. Justin Jackson, Northwestern (Previous: 5)
Last week: 17 carries,76 yards, no rushing TDs; 3 catches, 21 receiving yards
Season: 171 carries, 792 yards, 4.6 ypc, 6 rushing TDs; 19 catches, 124 receiving yards
Why he’s here: Pat Fitzgerald’s bell cow failed to at least crack the 79-yard mark for just the first time in six games. In his last two meetings with the Badgers — both Northwestern wins — the Illinois native averaged 34 carries and 150.5 yards on the ground, and another big game could go a long way in helping the ‘Cats spring a huge upset.
5. Rodney Smith, Minnesota (Previous: 6)
Last week: 20 carries, 100 yards, 2 rushing TDs; 2 catches, 19 receiving yards
Season: 153 carries, 801 yards, 5.2 ypc, 10 rushing TDs; 13 catches, 129 receiving yards
Why he’s here: A home-run threat in the backfield or in the slot, the nimble Georgia native has to be licking his chops to get a crack at the Boilers. Especially because he can do this:
— Minnesota Gophers (@GopherSports) October 21, 2016
4. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (Previous: 4)
Last week: 7 carries, 31 yards, 1 rushing TD; 7 catches, 68 receiving yards
Season: 71 carries, 558 yards, 7.9 ypc, 5 rushing TDs; 44 catches, 549 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
Why he’s here: Getting closer to Urban Meyer’s stated goal of 15 touches per game, split evenly on the ground or through the air. “That’s what we want,” Meyer told reporters after last week’s win over Northwestern. “Fifty-fifty (catches and carries). I wouldn’t mind eight each: Eight catches, eight handoffs.”
3. Corey Clement, Wisconsin (Previous: 2)
Last week: 19 carries, 82 yards, 0 rushing TD; no catches
Season: 161 carries, 699 yards, 4.3 ypc, 6 rushing TDs; 4 catches, 26 receiving yards
Why he’s here: As with the Iowa game, he struggled to find room against a swarming Nebraska defense. And just like in Iowa City, came on late by exploding for a 41-yard jaunt with 3:43 left in regulation.
2. Mike Weber, Ohio State (Previous: 3)
Last week: 14 carries, 87 yards, 2 rushing TDs; 3 catches, 20 receiving yards
Season: 129 carries, 770 yards, 6.0 ypc, 6 rushing TDs; 17 catches, 75 receiving yards
Why he’s here: After a rough two weeks finding space against more physical defenders in Wisconsin (46 rush yards) and Penn State (71 rush yards), Weber was back to breaking tackles against the Wildcats, including a 23-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter that broke open a 10-7 game.
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Previous: 1)
Last week: 18 carries, 207 yards, 2 rushing TDs; 3 catches, 70 yards
Season: 147 carries, 888 yards, 6.0 ypc, 10 rushing TDs; 14 catches, 213 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Why he’s here: October line: four games, 81 carries, 571 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns, 7.05 yards per carry, 142.75 yards per game. The Lions’ record in those games: 4-0.