By Sarah Berkowitz
Penn State should blow away Maryland tomorrow, and it’s likely the last regular season game for super Saquon Barkley:
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET TV Channel: Big Ten Network Spread: Penn State -21.5
Barkley, a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award this season (and possibly for the Heisman Trophy), has made it clear he intends to play in a bowl game, but this could very well be the final game he will play in the regular season. Expected to leave early for the NFL draft, Barkley has a chance to cement his legacy among Penn State running backs. Barkley already set the new school record for most career touchdowns and is now 304 yards away from the school’s all-time career rushing record.
The last time Penn State finished back-to-back seasons with 10 or more wins and top-10 finishes was in 2008 and ’09. A win against Maryland would clinch a second straight 10-win season for the Nittany Lions (Penn State was 11-3 last year with the 11th win coming in the Big Ten Championship Game).
A top-10 finish in the AP or College Football Playoff rankings will still require a win in a bowl game, most likely, but a win tomorrow will give Penn State an excellent chance to go to one of the New Year’s Six bowl games as an at-large participant. A year after playing in the Rose Bowl, that would be quite a two-year stretch for the program.
After a promising and uplifting start to the 2017 college football season, Maryland has struggled to keep the momentum going after being hit by the injury bug and some suspensions. This is a program still building quality depth, but that also makes the Terrapins vulnerable this week. For the second straight week, Penn State should be able to gain an advantage with the running game; Maryland ranks 12th in the Big Ten against the run.
Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore will have a chance to hit the 1,000-yard mark and do some damage against a Penn State secondary that has shown its warts in the second half of the season at times, if Max Bortenschlager has time to make some throws. But Penn State’s offense has too many guys to make plays with quarterback Trace McSorley and Mackey Award finalists Mike Gesicki to rely on in addition to Barkley. Maryland may hang around and force Penn State to make some plays, but the Nittany Lions will be more than capable of doing that.