A hype-filled preseason and a junior campaign graced by mind-boggling moments wasn’t enough. Arguably the best back in Penn State history is not going to New York City.
Saquon Barkley is not a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford running back Bryce Love made it over Barkley, the Heisman Trust announced Monday night. The winner will be announced on Saturday at the PlayStation Theater on Broadway. The ceremony will be aired at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Barkley told Sports Illustrated last week that, if he wasn’t a finalist, he’d still be at peace with it.
“If I didn’t get invited to the finalists, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it,” Barkley told SI. “I would be fine, to be perfectly honest. I still have another game to play this year and finish this season strong.
“I don’t need a trophy to define me or how I play.”
Barkley — the front-runner in late October — will still likely get votes for the award. However, Barkley won’t sitting alongside Mayfield, Jackson and Love. And it isn’t really his fault.
The junior eclipsed 100 yards rushing in only four of 12 games. In the other eight contests, he totaled just 485 yards on 125 carries (3.88 yards per attempt). Those lowly numbers aren’t a product of poor play. Penn State’s offensive line struggled mightily throughout the 2017 regular season, and teams found a successful blueprint in keying on Barkley and neutralizing him in the ground game.
Still, he made enough of an impact to garner Heisman consideration. Barkley’s 179.5 all-purpose yards per game and 21 touchdowns rank second and fifth, respectively, in the country. His 594 receiving yards ranks second nationally among running backs, and his 28.4 return yards per attempt is 10th in college football. The latter figure is bolstered by a pair of touchdown returns (98 yards against Indiana, 97 yards at Ohio State).
Although Mayfield is the overwhelming favorite, Barkley had a chance to become Penn State’s second-ever winner, joining fellow running back John Cappelletti (1973). Barkley would’ve been the first Nittany Lion invited to New York since Larry Johnson in 2002.
In terms of recent Heisman history, Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson was fifth in voting in 2005; Johnson was third to Southern California’s Carson Palmer and Iowa’s Brad Banks; and Ki-Jana Carter and Kerry Collins came in second and fourth, respectively, in 1994. Quarterback Chuck Fusina (second, 1978), running back Lydell Mitchell (fifth, 1971), defensive tackle Mike Reid (fifth, 1969), tight end Ted Kwalick (fourth, 1968), and signal-caller Richie Lucas (second, 1959) also received votes.
A finalist for the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Paul Hornung Awards and the No. 1 player on Mel Kiper, Jr.’s NFL draft big board, Barkley is one of the finest players in college football.
But he won’t be recognized as such on Saturday.