Over/Under: Saquon Barkley Gaining 2,088 Rushing Yards This Season
Through the summer, we’ll pose over/under scenarios for the upcoming Penn State football season and share our prediction. We also want to hear from you. Tag us on social media (@HappyValleyPSU) and let us know what you think.
Next up: Saquon Barkley finishing the season with 2,088 rushing yards, one more yard than the Penn State single-season record that Larry Johnson set in 2002.
Why you should take the over
Because Barkley is capable of anything on the football field. Fans have seen this time and again, and to the surprise of nobody around Penn State, Barkley continues to rack up offseason accolades, with a Sports Illustrated writer recently naming Barkley the biggest workout warrior in college football. He's also clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash and power cleaned 405 pounds this offseason. So Barkley will be bigger, stronger, faster, shiftier, etc., than last year.
If Penn State’s goal was to get Barkley enough yards to break the record, this would be a near-lock. But the Lions are more focused on team goals and success, so while Barkley will continue to collect standout performances, it’ll be within a team approach. He won’t get 30-plus carries and be a workhorse, which is how other Big Ten backs have accumulated monster seasons. Barkley will get his numbers, it just might not be enough for the record.
Why you should take the under
Penn State has plenty of options offensively, so it’s not a given that Barkley will get 20-plus carries most games. He didn’t last season, when he had that many carries in less than half of Penn State’s contests (six). Granted, Barkley doesn’t need a lot of carries to rack up a lot of yards, but it’ll be more difficult to crack the 2,000-yard plateau if Barkley doesn’t receive 20-25 attempts. Last year, he averaged 19.4 carries/game and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. To break Johnson’s single-season mark with that same average, Barkley would have to get 380 carries, which would never happen. For some context, Johnson averaged 7.7 yards per carry in 2002, on 271 attempts.
Additionally, Barkley became more dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield last season. It makes sense to give Barkley the ball in space and let him break tackles, but it’ll also take away from his rushing yards, even just a little bit. This is all great news for the team, though will hurt Barkley’s chances of toppling the record.
This one is close. We’ll take the under, with an asterisk. We don’t see Barkley cracking Johnson’s single-season record, but we do predict that he’ll overtake Evan Royster and finish his career as the Nittany Lions’ all-time leading rusher. We’ll have more on this other record as we get closer to the season opener.