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Saquon Barkley, widely viewed as the Heisman frontrunner, will face stiff tests the next two weeks against MIchigan and Ohio State.

Heisman campaign of Penn State’s Saquon Barkley hangs in the balance; Mike Gesicki befriends John O’Korn’s mom

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Next 2 weeks critical to Saquon Barkley, too

Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call spoke with ESPN’s Joe Tessitore, who since 2009 has run a “Heisman Watch” poll.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is listed as the favorite, and Tessitore agrees, telling Wogenrich that Barkley is “the best player in college football.” But Tessitore believes the No. 2 Nittany Lions’ game Saturday night against No. 19 Michigan, as well as the visit next week to No. 6 Ohio State, will be critical to his candidacy.

Frank Fitzpatrick of Philly.com offers another Barkley profile, traveling to his old stomping grounds in the Lehigh Valley and reviewing his rise from 160-pound sophomore non-prospect to weight-room warrior to college star.

“No one expected him to be the elite back he is today,” Whitehall coach Brian Gilbert told Fitzpatrick, “when he was growing up.”

Scrambled eggs, and loyalties

Fitzpatrick’s Philly.com colleague, Joe Juliano, writes about the friendship that has developed between Nittany Lions tight end Mike Gesicki and Paula O’Korn, a server at a State College breakfast spot he frequents known as the Naked Egg. She also happens to be the mother of Michigan quarterback John O’Korn – and, Gesicki said, “a great lady.”

Ricky Rahne, waiting in the wings

Tight ends coach Ricky Rahne was on a conference call with reporters Thursday, and Mike Gross of LNP Media Group theorized he wouldn’t be the worst choice to succeed Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator, if and when Moorhead decides (as many expect) to pursue a head-coaching job. “Eventually, one day, if I’m lucky enough to call my own plays, great,’’ Rahne said, per Gross. “If not, if I’m a tight end coach the rest of my life, trust me, I’m still a pretty happy dude.” That involves sitting up in the pressbox during games, with the windows mercifully closed. “Sometimes,” Rahne said, per Gross, “my vocabulary can dip in some areas I wish it didn’t.”

Handling the havoc

Andrew Callahan of Lions247 reports on a new statistic making the rounds – havoc rate – which measures how often a defense records a tackle for loss, forced fumble or pass deflection. The Wolverines are second in the nation in that department, the Nittany Lions third, and Callahan believes whichever offense can extricate itself from the opponent’s defensive web might emerge with the victory Saturday night.

Shareef Miller, survivor

The tale of defensive end Shareef Miller has had many twists and turns, and Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle/Times reports on another – he was robbed at gunpoint three months ago in Philadelphia, his hometown. “My life’s too important to fight over a phone or a wallet,” he told Scarcella. “I could have gotten killed right there.”

Hoops talk

The Big Ten Network tweeted out video of an interview with men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers and two of his players, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, at the conference’s media days. The Nittany Lions have all five starters back from a 15-18 team, and as Chambers told Dave Revsine, “I think we’re gonna learn from the experiences of last year.”

Tailor-made

Audrey Snyder of DKPittsburghsports.com tweeted out a photo of a fan who managed to transform the jersey of former Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Matt Barkley into one of Saquon.

Also in the Land of 10

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