There’s no denying that Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Stanford’s Bryce Love were two of the top running backs in all of college football in 2017. Both players put together incredible seasons and were among the candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Although Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield took home the coveted award, Love was the runner-up for the trophy, while Barkley finished sixth in the voting.
While comparisons between Barkley and Love may lean towards Love as being the better running back of the two, there are plenty that believe Barkley is better. Ben Jones of StateCollege.com reported on Wednesday that Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea is one of those people.
“Saquon, he’s a hell of a back,” Vea said in the article. “He can go side to side and create space with just a couple of inches. [Barkley and Love] are both up there, the top tier backs. Obviously Saquon, I think Saquon might be better.”
Vea, who is a part of the top rushing defense in the country, knows a thing or two about stopping the run. In addition, he has gone up against Love a couple of times in the last few seasons.
However, the Huskies had a hard time containing Love in their only matchup this season, as he rushed for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns on 30 carries on Nov. 10. While Barkley may not put up the same numbers that Love did against Washington, Vea sees Barkley as a bigger threat than Love. Washington will face Barkley for the first time this season when Penn State and Washington face off in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
Another Washington player weighed in on the Barkley-Love debate.
“He’s maybe the best back we’ve seen,” Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said of Barkley.
In the article, Barkley said that he talked with Love about how to attack Washington’s stout run defense.
“Their “D” linemen are really good,” Barkley said. “I’m pretty sure you guys are all aware of Vita Vea and stuff like that. But we approach it watching the game plan and seeing how they attack it and how they attack running backs different.
“I talked to Bryce Love out in Atlanta and see how he attacked them. And continue to watch film and get a good feel for them and when it comes to game time you just have to execute.”
Vea added that Penn State is one of the best teams that they have gone up against all season.
“It’s a better team than we’ve played all year,” he said. “So we’ll see when we get out there Saturday how everything works out.”
Penn State and Washington will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (on ESPN) at the University of Phoenix Stadium.