Big stats in blowouts needed for Heisman

Let me be clear up front and say I’m not advocating for continuing to play Saquon Barkley when Penn State is up 30 points just to pad stats. That’s foolish in football.

But there is an undeniable truth when it comes to winning the Heisman Trophy, and that truth is the winner must have tremendous stats. If we all can agree that Barkley winning the Heisman would be awesome for him and the PSU program, it’s a given that he needs to pile up monster numbers.

The Nittany Lions will easily win two of their first three games (Akron and Georgia State), and there’s no doubt Barkley can help his Heisman campaign with huge days. The dilemma, though, is that PSU won’t need him to have a huge day to win those games, yet he will need to impress voters and pick up early season momentum by gaining a bunch of yards.

To that end, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead should get the ball in Barkley’s hands as much as possible in these non-conference games (including Pitt in week two). Barkley needs 18-20 carries and 3-4 catches — regardless of the score — and some of the calls certainly should be plays designed not to get him hit as much to protect his health.

Let’s say Barkley gets 125 total yards (rushing and receiving) in each of the first three games and doesn’t play much in the second half of two blowouts. And he finishes the season with 1,600 yards rushing plus 400 receiving.

That’s a terrific year. But it won’t be enough to win the Heisman, because someone else is going to put up better numbers on a really good team.

Now, if Barkley gets 225 total yards in each of the first three games and that helps push his season totals to 1,800 rushing plus 500 receiving, that would make a big difference to Heisman voters.

Scoring a bunch of touchdowns in the three non-conference games also could be a big factor, as will, obviously, how well he does in PSU’s biggest games.

Should we be having this discussion at all, about purposefully showcasing one player against an overmatched opponent? No. Not in a team sport, when winning should be the only priority.

But having a player win the Heisman Trophy would be enormous for Penn State, for far too many reasons to list. And if that means the coaches have to call 7-8 more plays for Barkley per game — running, catching, returning kicks — than really necessary in some early season blowouts, then so be it.

The end would justify the means if Barkley winds up winning the most prestigious trophy in sports.

Giger is a beat writer for Penn State football. Email comments to