When Penn State released its depth chart for the Michigan game, the running back position read like this…

Journey Brown

Ricky Slade

Noah Cain

Devyn Ford

James Franklin and his staff have maintained the status quo when it comes to their running backs, but there is a clear and away option who they evidently consider their number one and he should be listed as such.

Noah Cain, who many fans considered a bruising back who would be useful in short-yardage situations, has emerged as Penn State’s best running back.

A true freshman, Cain played a huge role in the Nittany Lions escaping Iowa with a win last Saturday night, taking 22 carries for 102 yards and a score late in the game. Cain began to emerge against Purdue, 12 carries for 105 yards and a score, but he solidified himself as the lead back against Iowa. Despite what the depth chart says.

Journey Brown and Devyn Ford have both had big games, and Ricky Slade while extremely underwhelming thus far, has shown some flashes, but Cain had earned the majority of snaps in the backfield and he’s made the most of them.

He’s shown improvement week to week and has proven himself more than what fans expected.

Franklin and running backs coach JaJuan Seider no doubt want to keep everyone in the running backs room happy, but if the way they’re listed on the depth chart doesn’t translate to touches on the field, it doesn’t matter.

It seems like the other three running backs have struggled to find space and getting in a rhythm. This is partly due to the sporadic carries. Cain, early in the season, also didn’t have as many touches as he’d have liked, but when he got them he took full advantage.

It would surprise no one if Brown or Ford or Slade has a big game in front of the white-out crowd on Saturday, but if the game is close down the stretch or Penn State needs to close it out, Cain deserves and will get the ball.

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