Saquon Barkley didn't score the game-winning touchdown in No. 4 Penn State's thrilling 21-19 victory against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, but he helped make it happen.
Barkley picked up a blitz, Trace McSorley roped a seven-yard touchdown pass through two defenders and the Nittany Lions pressed on in the Big Ten East with a 4-0 record that left Iowa fans in silent shock.
Barkley, however, didn't need to score to show what everybody should see right now. He's the best all-around football player in college football.
There isn't a more exciting player, not even Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield or USC's Sam Darnold. There hasn't been a running quite like this in a while — and that's saying something considering Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook were all on the field last year.
What more do you need? Barkley had 28 carries for a career-high 211 yards and a touchdown. He had a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards. He helped Penn State survive in a place where several Big Ten teams have faltered at night, like Michigan last year. He also submitted endless highlights, all while battling a tweaked left ankle.
Keep in mind Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott put up 2,098 total yards in 2014 and 2,027 total yards in 2015. Barkley, who has 518 rushing yards and 257 receiving yards, is on pace for 2,325 total yards in the regular season. He submitted a few more viral highlights, too. You tell me the last running back who made you feel the way Barkley does after watching these:
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) September 24, 2017
— FanSided College (@FanSidedU) September 24, 2017
At minimum, it's an equal three-part debate with Darnold and Mayfield for the Heisman Trophy, and the Darnold-Barkley talk could easily carry over to the 2018 NFL Draft, depending on what NFL teams in that position need. We saw that coming for the season.
It's still a little early for serious Heisman talk — that award is fluid, on a week-to-week basis — but even had Iowa won this game, it didn't take away from what Barkley did and will continue to do for the Nittany Lions.
He'll have more chances to prove it, too, especially in what should be back-to-back top-10 showdowns at home against Michigan on Oct. 21 and on the road at Ohio State on Oct. 28. Big stages. If Barkley does something like this against the Wolverines' nasty defense, then the balloting should close early.
John Cappelletti won the Heisman Trophy for Penn State in 1973. Other Nittany Lions running backs such as Curt Warner (10th, 1982), Ki-Jana Carter (4th, 1994), Curtis Enis (5th, 1997) and Larry Johnson (3rd, 2002) came close. It's not a stretch to say Barkley could be better than all of those players before he's finished. In fact. ...
Not old enough for Lydell. Watched Curt Warner, covered DJ Dozier, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana. Saquon Barkley is best Penn State RB I've seen.
— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) September 24, 2017
But we don't need the Heisman talk. We know what we're seeing, and it's a little faster, a little stronger and a little sleeker than everything else on the field. Mayfield planted a flag after beating Ohio State in Week 2. Darnold won in double-overtime against Texas in Week 3.
Barkley threw a block. Somehow we love that more for that. Why?
Because he's the best all-around player in college football. Right now, it's not even close.