Saquon Barkley’s genius stems from the running back’s creativity. The Heisman hopeful is among the quickest players in the country with nearly fictitious vision and an uncanny ability to change directions. You’ve seen shifty running backs before, but Barkley, with his incredible balance, seemingly keeps defenses in perpetual instability. Oh, and don’t let the junior get in the open field or he will showcase his 4.3 second 40-yard speed.
A capable receiver as well, Barkley is a nightmare matchup for Northwestern. Instead of a traditional film study, let’s just marvel at Barkley’s top ten plays of the season. Through five games, he’s amassed 1,218 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns. I have no idea how Northwestern is going to try to slow him down.
You’ll see the speed and elusiveness, but here’s the power too. Barkley sheds a pair of tackles before turning on the jets.
10. 25-yard run vs. Akron
This is quintessential Barkley, magically turning a neutral play into a big one. Designed to go to the right, Barkley’s patient, waiting for his blocks to develop. When the Akron right end blows the initial play up, he switches fields, finishing the run with a mesmerizing high-step to get an additional five yards.
9. 16-yard touchdown pass vs. Indiana
Not much needs to be said about this play. Barkley probably won’t throw again on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean he can’t. As Hoosier defenders sellout to defend the pitch, Barkley lofts an easy touchdown pass on a play that might not be defendable.
8. 16-yard run vs. Iowa
More vision and otherworldly ability to make defender’s miss. No. 43 is Josey Jewell, a Butkus Award finalist last season. A redshirt junior, Jewell has seen a lot in his four years in Iowa City. But he didn’t see much of Barkley on this play. Watch the running back’s feet as he freezes Jewell and has the speed to get to the sideline.
7. 80-yard run vs. Akron
The clock reads 9:36 when Barkley hits full stride at his own 15-yard line and 9:29 when he steps out at the 13. Wow.
6. 85-yard touchdown reception vs. Georgia State
This is a tremendous play by Trace McSorley, but find the open receiver. After that, it’s all Barkley. He freezes the defensive back and once again shows off the speed.
5. 98-yard kickoff return touchdown vs. Indiana
Yes, Barkley can do it all. This is an electric way to start the game, and watching this film must give Pat Fitzgerald shudders of 2015 in Ann Arbor. Barkley switches fields, receives tremendous blocking, hits the crease and makes the punter miss. If you hadn’t learned yet, arm tackles aren’t going to work on this guy.
4. 36-yard reception vs. Indiana
The catch. The moves. The way he finishes the run.
No. 8 is Tegray Scales, a second-team All American who led the nation with 23.5 tackles for a loss. He must have thought he had another. Instead, Scales doesn’t touch Barkley, and then the Penn State back makes two more defenders miss in the open field.
3. 14-yard reception vs. Iowa
Similar matchup against Jewell, same result. With less than 25 seconds remaining, McSorley narrowly avoids the sack by dumping the ball off to Barkley, who freezes Jewell. The magnitude of this play is massive. Barkley preserves Penn State’s final timeout by not only getting out of bounds, but he turns what should have been a short gain into a 14-yard reception. This set up McSorley’s walk-off touchdown pass.
2. 44-yard run vs. Iowa
There really isn’t anything that needs to be said.
1. 10-yard reception vs. Iowa
No words for this play either.