He's only 19, it's important to remember, and his college experience consists of just 13 games. Yet how many quarterbacks would you take right now over Penn State's Christian Hackenberg if your team needed to orchestrate a game-winning drive?
Florida State's Jameis Winston would be one answer, for sure, but I can't think of many others beyond the reigning Heisman winner. Fact is, with Ohio State's Braxton Miller sidelined for the season, Penn State's super sophomore is poised to become the Big Ten's king of clutch.
As a true freshman, Hackenberg led a touchdown drive to tie the score in regulation against Michigan and a two-minute drill to set up a tying field goal against Illinois. Penn State went on to win both of those games. He was even better Saturday, when the Nittany Lions took over on their own 26 with 1:13 remaining, trailing UCF by a point. Hackenberg went 4-of-6 for 55 yards on the drive, and his best play was probably an 8-yard scramble on fourth-and-3, to get in range for Sam Ficken's game-winning field goal.
"The key is [No.] 14," UCF coach George O'Leary said after the game. "I think everybody in the country would like to have him.''
We tend to think young quarterbacks need time to mature into late-game magicians, but some just seem to naturally have it in them. Winston, Johnny Manziel and Miller all showed that as freshmen. So did Hackenberg.
He did throw two interceptions Saturday, but the entire offense was riding on his right arm. A patchwork offensive line couldn't open holes for the running game, which managed just 57 yards on 28 carries, so he chucked it 47 times en route to a school-record 454 passing yards. It was a master class on the QB position, Ben Jones writes.
Penn State will likely have to lean hard on Hackenberg all year long, and keeping him healthy is likely the No. 1 key to its season. But if the Nittany Lions can just hang around long enough in games to give No. 14 a chance to win them at the end, good things could happen.
On to the Labor Day links:
Tevin Coleman and defense -- yes, defense -- helped Indiana get by Indiana State.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke was pleased with his offensive line after the unit paved the way for 350 yards rushing vs. Appalachian State.
Joe Rexrode's 11 takeaways from Michigan State's opening victory.
Ohio State has a lot of athletes, but who are the true playmakers at wide receiver? That and other observations from Ari Wasserman.
Rutgers' offensive line was one of the highlights of the team's win at Washington State.
Maryland's receiver depth could take another hit, depending on the outcome of the MRI today on Taivon Jacobs' knee.
Penn State's young receivers answered the bell in Ireland.
Grades for Illinois' unimpressive win over Youngstown State.
Iowa needs to make major improvement after a Week 1 scare from Northern Iowa.
Northwestern flopped in its season debut.
Purdue was far from perfect, but it scored enough to get its first win over an FBS opponent since 2012.
— Badger Football (@BadgerFootball) August 31, 2014