Penn State came in at number 12 in the first College Football Playoff poll earlier this week. They are 6-2 on the season and are riding a four game winning streak. Much of this has to do with how well their sophomore running back, Saquon Barkley, has played. Barkley currently leads the Big Ten in rushing with 888 yards on 147 carries. For those of you that don't feel like doing the math, that's an average of six yards per rush. He's also found the end zone 10 times.
The Hawkeyes will be coming off a bye week and should be as healthy as ever on both sides of the ball after getting a much needed break. This team has had two weeks now to prepare for the Nittany Lions and I am sure they've watched plenty of film on this team. Barkley is going to be a tough back to keep under wraps, but the Hawkeyes may have it in them.
So, the Hawkeyes keep Barkley under 100 yards on Saturday, fact or fiction?
DEREK: Fiction. He's the best running back in the Big Ten for a reason. He's probably top five, nationally. Barkley is one of my favorite players in the league because of how hard he runs and how he routinely gets more yards than what is actually blocked. And that's a good thing because his offensive line has been far from good in his both seasons as the starter in the Nittany Lion backfield.
I don't think he explodes but keeping him under 100 is pretty tough to do. It'll be a bend but don't break defense from the Hawkeyes. The good thing for Iowa is that they can still win in Happy Valley even if they are unable to hold him under 100.
DYLAN: I wanted to lean towards fact here, but I'll say fiction as well. Barkley is just about as talented as they come. He's a tough runner, hits the hole quickly, but is patient in letting his blocks unfold. He ran for over 1,000 yards in his freshman season and will absolutely go over 1,000 yards in now his sophomore season. I think Iowa will do a good job of not letting him get loose for big runs, but I think Penn State goes to him often.
I watched a couple of Penn State games and their QB, Trace McSorely, sometimes struggles with his accuracy. I see the Nittany Lions really going to Barkley early and often. They don't turn and hand to anyone else really. I'd expect Barkley to see north of 20 carries, which should be enough to net him 100 yards. It will be a hard fought 100 yards because Iowa's run defense has been stingy despite giving up 134 yards to Corey Clement of Wisconsin. Clement did carry the ball 35 times in that game, so he only averaged right around 3.5 yards per carry.
I'll say Iowa prevents the big play, but Barkley goes over 100 yards merely because he'll touch it a bunch.