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Klonsinski: Gordon for Heisman

| Wednesday, November 19, 2014

With two week’s left in the regular season, this year’s Heisman Trophy race is already over. Who could have clinched it this early, you ask?

Jameis Winston, of undefeated Florida State? Ha, fat chance. Between his off-the-field issues and the fact that there have been times he and the team have not looked good, Winston is not even a contender in my book and should not even make the end-of-the-season trip to New York for the ceremony. Crab legs can’t lift that heavy trophy anyways.

J.T. Barrett, of Ohio State? The youngster filling in for the injured Braxton Miller has done an admirable job against … who? His win over Michigan State a couple weeks ago was a good performance on the road, but when your next toughest game is a home loss to Virginia Tech, it’s hard to put much behind many of those numbers.

Marcus Mariota, of Oregon? When you look at his numbers, they are extremely strong. I won’t deny that. But honestly, even I could probably put up half the numbers Mariota is with an offense that full of ridiculous athletes, especially factoring in the Pac-12’s utter lack of defense.

So no, none of them are the most outstanding player in college football. That distinction goes to the guy who has run away from everyone this year— Wisconsin junior running back Melvin Gordon. And no, this isn’t simply in response to his record-setting game against Nebraska. And yes, I do take into consideration that Wisconsin always has five massive farm-boys who moonlight as offensive linemen. I grew up on Wisconsin football and they still hold a soft spot in my heart because I have been watching them ever since I can remember.

Which is exactly why Melvin Gordon should win the Heisman.

Through 10 games, Gordon only needs only 200 yards to pass Ron Dayne’s single-season rushing record and become the greatest of all the running backs in Wisconsin history. Gordon has averaged 190.9 yards per game this year, so there is little doubt, barring an injury, he’ll obliterate that record by the time the season is over.

Gordon’s 1,909 yards through 10 games are 250 more than any other running back in FBS football this season and he is on pace — with at least three, possibly four games remaining — to give Barry Sanders’ NCAA record 2,628 yards in 1988 more than a run for its money. Not to say Gordon is as good as Sanders — he’s not as shifty — but maybe more like a smaller, slightly slower Bo Jackson. I will say that of all the running backs Wisconsin has had over the years, none come even close to Gordon.

In the Badgers’ opening week loss to LSU, Gordon carried for 140 yards and a touchdown … in the first half. He hurt his hip flexor and barely played at all in the second half, but that total is still the second-highest recorded against LSU this season behind Josh Robinson’s 197 for Mississippi State. LSU came back to win late as Wisconsin’s offense stalled with Gordon on the sidelines and failed to score more than a field goal in the second half. In Wisconsin’s 20-14 loss to Northwestern, Gordon ran for 259 yards and both Badger scores, but Badger coach Gary Andersen inexplicably tried to throw in the red zone. Both times, a ball ended up being intercepted by the Wildcats in the end zone.

And then there was last week. Nebraska’s defense was conceding only 130 yards a game to opposing running games. Gordon had more than that in the second and third quarters each en route to an NCAA record 408 yards … in only three quarters of action. Yes, Gordon sat all of the fourth quarter, or else he could have reached 500 yards easily.

All numbers aside, Gordon is still the single biggest reason the Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. To describe Wisconsin’s passing game as ‘atrocious’ is sugarcoating it. Junior quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy have combined for 1,397 yards passing all season, 500 less than Gordon has tallied on the ground.

If Gordon had not gotten hurt against LSU, and if Andersen had stuck to running the football against Northwestern, Gordon’s name would already be etched on the Heisman trophy. Instead, the two-loss Badgers are under the radar with two games remaining in the regular season against Iowa and Minnesota, both of whom sport winning records, and a possible showdown against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game looming if they win out.

So don’t be surprised to start hearing “Wisconsin” come out of more analysts’ mouths as we get closer to the end of the season, and especially don’t be surprised when Melvin Gordon gives his acceptance speech in New York City.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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