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Washington has faced elite players this season and next will encounter Saquon Barkley, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

Early look at Penn State’s Fiesta Bowl trip; Heisman voter explains why he had Saquon Barkley No. 2 on his ballot

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An early look ahead

Penn State and Washington will hook up in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 in a game that features some holdover intrigue from a season ago.

Washington edged the Nittany Lions for the fourth and final playoff spot in 2016 and ultimately had to tangle with Alabama, and lost. Penn State hasn’t forgotten that and certainly wanted a crack at the Crimson Tide, too.

John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times takes an early look at how these two teams stack up.

Chris Landon of UW Dawg Pound asks if Penn State “is the UW of the Big Ten?

From Landon:

Looking at team stats doesn’t reveal many definite advantages on either side. A look at player-level stats does reveal a few key differences. One of them is in how the tight end gets utilized. Both teams are excellent at involving tight ends, but Penn State clearly uses theirs in order to generate big plays and red zone scores.

Landon is referring to Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, who has 9 touchdowns this season.

Ryan S. Clark of The News Tribune in Tacoma writes that Washington has faced some of the best players in college football, and now it gets a date with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.

The right choice

Plenty of Heisman voters tell you why they voted for their choice after the award is officially given out. Mike Gross of LancasterOnline went in a bit of a different direction.

Gross tells you why he had Barkley as his second choice on his ballot.

Gross makes a strong case for the winner, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and plenty of writers made it known they thought it was absurd Barkley wasn’t invited to the ceremony. Barkley finished fourth in the final tally.

Gross writes:

Mayfield is one of the best players in the history of the sport. He might, crazily, be underrated. He is, to put it mildly, no Gino Torretta.

In 2016, an argument could be made that Mayfield had the best passing season, at least statistically, in college football history. This year he’s been clearly better.

A case can be made either way. Barkley’s fourth-place finish was the highest by a Penn State player since Larry Johnson took third in 2002.

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Dive into the numbers

Penn State currently has 20 verbal commitments for its 2018 class, but Greg Pickel of Pennlive takes a closer look at the scholarship numbers going into the postseason and into the offseason.

Remember, last week two players opted to transfer out of Penn State, leaving some depth questions, especially at running back, if Barkley goes to the NFL as expected.

Pickel notes:

Head coach James Franklin and the program do not release information pertaining to who is and who is not included in that 85, and thus the best available public information comes from signed recruiting classes and transfer information along with counting in the recruits currently expected to sign either during the early signing period Dec. 20-22 or on the traditional National Signing Day in February.

One big number Penn State is hoping to add is 21, as in the 21st verbal to the class, coming from Harrisburg, Pa., defensive end Micah Parsons, who will announce his decision on Dec. 20.

Glad to be back

It’s been a while since Penn State last played in the Fiesta Bowl (1997 to be exact), and the bowl officials are glad the Nittany Lions are headed back, writes FightOn State’s Mark Brennan.

Penn State will be making its seventh trip to the game and has not lost in six previous trips.

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