Two of Penn State’s finest running backs produced for the NFL will go head-to-head this weekend in the NFL’s divisional round of the playoffs. Miles Sanders and the Philadelphia Eagles will host Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants in a classic NFC East slobber knocker, and both former Nittany Lion running backs will be keys to victory for their respective teams.
Barkley is coming off an impressive postseason debut with the Giants. In last week’s road win against the Minnesota Vikings, Barkley scored two touchdowns and accumulated 109 yards of total offense. He scored the first touchdown of the game on the first offensive series for the Giants and the eventual game-winning score later in the fourth quarter. It was an impressive playoff debut that felt long overdue for the five-year veteran.
Sanders is entering the postseason after a career-best regular season with 1,269 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts may get the spotlight with his MVP-caliber regular season in Philadelphia, but Sanders has had a terrific season as well, which is why he was selected to his first career Pro Bowl.
In the first regular-season meeting between the Eagles and Giants this season, Sanders rushed for 144 yards, a season-high, and scored two touchdowns. Sanders had a significantly lower rushing total in the regular season finale between the two division rivals, but the Eagles offense also didn’t appear to go all out in its effort knowing it should be able to manage clinching homefield advantage in a home game against the Giants’ backups (the Giants already had their playoff seed locked in; the Eagles needed a win or a loss by the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys).
It seems that every time Miles Sanders faces the Giants, TV announcers make a point to remind everyone watching that he backed up Saquon Barkley at Penn State. But Sanders and the Eagles have held the upper hand on the scoreboard more often than not over the past five seasons, and Sanders has been a part of some of that success. Expect to be reminded of that again on Saturday night as the Eagles and Giants battle for a spot in the NFC Championship Game. One way or another, a Penn State running back will be playing for a spot in the Super Bowl next week.
Will it be Barkley or Sanders?
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