If there is any team with as much depth as the Buckeyes at running back, it’s the 3-1 Wisconsin Badgers. The numbers are kind of ridiculous.
- Melvin Gordon is college football’s leading rusher with 624 yards in four games, and he leads the nation despite having eight fewer carries than anyone else in the top ten.
- Oh, the running back who checks in at number ten with 442 yards? He’s also from Wisconsin: Senior James White.
- Gordon is averaging 11.8 yards per carry.
- White is the active leader in career rushing yards for a running back (3,013 yards) and rushing touchdowns (35). The Muncie Star Press says this is true, even though his first official start at tailback was the season opener against UMass.
- Wisconsin has 6 runs that have covered 50 yards or more so far this season. To give you some perspective, the team that led the country in that category for all of 2012 was Utah State with 10.
It’s no wonder coach Gary Anderson says he has two NFL quality backs. (Not to mention a third in Corey Clement who ranks 35th nationally in rushing yards.)
True, Wisconsin’s wins have come against Massachusetts, Tennessee Tech and a rebuilding Purdue squad; but there’s a reason the Badgers are averaging almost 350 rushing yards a game.
Compared to the way they run the ball, the passing game has been less than consistent. “We need to throw the ball and catch the ball better, without a doubt,” said Anderson.
Quarterback Joel Stave will be making his 11th career start when Wisconsin comes to Columbus to play the Buckeyes Saturday. So far this year he has three interceptions to six touchdown passes.
His leading target is Jared Abbrederis. (He’s also a prolific kick and punt returner.) Running back, White, is second on the team when it comes to receptions. Tight end Jacob Pedersen has hauled in eight passes this season, putting him third on the list of pass catchers, but he left last week’s victory over Purdue with a sprained MCL and never returned.
Despite switching to a 3-4 scheme, Wisconsin has some impressive defensive numbers, too.
- The Badgers went 12 straight quarters (dating back to last season) without giving up a touchdown.
- They still have yet to allow a passing touchdown this season.
- Twice this year, Wisconsin has held opponents (Tennessee Tech and Purdue) to fewer than 200 yards of total offense.
- They rank sixth nationally in total defense.
These accomplishments are even more notable, because–up until last week–the Badgers weren’t generating much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They had registered one sack this season before getting to Purdue’s Rob Henry four times, and harassing him to the tune of seven quarterback hurries.
The defense is led by linebacker Chris Borland. He has forced 13 fumbles in his career, which is not only a school record, but just one shy of the FBS record.
And, of course, the team is coached by an Urban Meyer protege in Anderson. Meyer, who brought Anderson aboard when he was at Utah, has called him one of his two or three best hires.
Anderson certainly sounds like his mentor. Both are 49 years old. Both have suffered health scares related to the stress of their job. (Fatigued and disoriented in 2010, Anderson fell at home, and had to hospitalized with head and neck injuries.) After a controversial loss to Arizona State, he pointedly said he wants an angry team, playing with a chip on their shoulder. He has a 27-member leadership committee…
One last thing? Something really, really cool happened at the Badgers game vs. the Boilermakers.