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Opinion

Smeltzer: Auburn’s Bigsby First big RB Test

James Franklin
Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State’s defense hasn’t had to face a running back like Auburn’s Tank Bigsby this season. Purdue’s King Doerue— awesome name, by the way— ran decently, gaining 57 yards on 15 carries and scoring two touchdowns Week 1.

But Purdue is never comfortable running the ball— even when nursing a late-game lead— and thus, its running game wasn’t a big chore for Penn State’s defensive front.

Containing Bigsby will be a bigger task.

Cartavious Bigsby, who got the nickname “Tank” at a young age due to his habit of running into things— has been at Auburn since 2020.

As a freshman, he ran for 834 yards, scored five touchdowns and averaged six yards per carry. Last  year, he broke 1,000 yards, finishing with 1,099, scoring 10 touchdowns and averaging just under five yards per touch. 102 of those yards came against Penn State in Week 3. Bigsby also added two touchdowns on 23 carries in Auburn’s 28-20 loss.

Bigsby and Auburn are hoping to avenge that loss this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Through two games this season, Bigsby has been a mixed bag. In Week 1, he tore Mercer apart, going off for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Bigsby wasn’t nearly as big a factor this Saturday, only going for 51 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown against San Jose State.

Penn State will be by far the best defense Bigsby has faced to this point, and by the same token, Bigsby will be the best running back Penn State has seen in 2022.

After Auburn, Penn State will get another strong test in Central Michigan tailback Lew Nichols III, who rushed for 1,848 yards, 16 touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2021.

Northwestern’s Evan Hull, who Penn State is slated to face Week 5, also broke 1,000 yards last year, and although Michigan’s Blake Corum fell shy of 1,000, he averaged 6.6 yards per carry for the Wolverines in 2021, and he’s who Penn State will presumably see coming out of its bye Week 7.

Minnesota’s Mohammed Ibrahim is averaging six yards a carry and has scored two touchdowns through two games. Minnesota is Penn State’s Week 8 opponent. Ohio State’s Treveyon Henderson is averaging 7.1 YPC and went for 1,248 with 15 touchdowns last year. The Buckeyes come to Happy Valley Week 9.

You get the picture. Bigsby probably isn’t the best back Penn State will face in 2022. But he’s one of the best, and he’s the first one that will give Penn State a significant challenge.

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