Breaking it down: Barkley looking to continue emergence vs. SDSU
Who: San Diego State vs. Penn State
When: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, Penn State
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -15
Matchup to watch: Penn State D-line vs. Donnel Pumphery
The Aztec tailback hasn’t broke out big yet this year, but he’s coming off a school record 1,867-yard, 20-touchdown sophomore season. He and former Badger Melvin Gordon were the only two players in the country to rank in the top 10 in rushing yards per game, all-purpose yards per game, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per carry. He, however, will not be facing a Mountain West Conference line. He’ll be greeted by the likes of Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib. The nation’s 12th-ranked run defense has surrendered just 87 yards per contest so far, a number that would be vastly improved if not for one bad fourth quarter against Temple. Needless to say, Pumphrey’s breakout game might have to wait another week.
Thing I’m excited for: Saquon, Saquon, Saquon
I realize I’m repeating myself here. How can you not get excited to see what Saquon Barkley is going to do whenever he touches the ball? Maybe the true freshman will take it 54 yards like he did last week. Maybe he’ll stop on a dime and turn upfield for a score. Whatever he does, it’s worth watching. Does anybody else realize that this guy has 310 rushing yards in his last six quarters of football? The Lions have 45 points in that stretch. Before that, they had 20. Barkley was hyped throughout training camp, though many expected it’d be a year or two before we really saw him take on a significant workload. Right now, James Franklin’s offense can’t afford to have Barkley on the bench.
Number to remember: 0
That’s how many sacks the Penn State line has allowed in the last two games. After that Temple disaster, that’s saying something. Add the fact that the Lions dealt with an injury to Andrew Nelson during that stretch, and that’s a small miracle. Christian Hackenberg shouldn’t have any reason not to feel comfortable in the pocket if that continues. He knows he needs to be more assertive on his throws. Without Hackenberg feeling like he’s going to be drilled on every play, we shouldn’t see a guy who’s bracing for the worst. He shouldn’t lack confidence on Saturday.
Prediction: Penn State 24, San Diego State 7
The Lions showed the last two weeks they can win playing a run-heavy, ball control style. Don’t expect James Franklin to all of the sudden let Hackenberg air it out 35 times. He’s found a formula to make sure the Lions don’t look completely overmatched on offense. A major part of that equation is increased work for Barkley, which should continue on Saturday. The Lions get some more offensive momentum and nab their third straight comfortable victory.