While most of the talk around the Wisconsin football program has involved the Badgers' No. 9 ranking in the first released College Football Playoffs rankings, the real story of the team has been the incredible play of true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who is closing in on the best season ever for a freshman back at Wisconsin.
In order to lock down the best season ever for a Badgers freshman, Taylor needs to surpass one of the best running backs in college football history — Ron Dayne.
The legendary Badgers' back rushed for an NCAA record 7,125 yards over his four-year career, jumping out of the gate with his best season in terms of total yards as a freshman — 2,109 rushing yards.
Through 9 games this season, Taylor has already secured one of the best seasons ever by a Badgers' freshman. He's rushed for 1,368 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has the 4th-best Wisconsin Badgers' single-season performance ever by a freshman, behind only Dayne (2,109 yards), P.J. Hill (1,569 yards) and Anthony Davis (1,466 yards).
He passed James White (1,052) and John Clay (884) earlier this season on the freshman record list.
If Taylor wants to pass Ron Dayne for No. 1 all time as a freshman (and the No. 2 all-time Wisconsin performance behind only Melvin Gordon's 2,587-yard season), he needs 742 yards over the next 4 games to accomplish the feat.
That's an average of 186 yards per game, a number he's passed three times this season and approached one other.
At his current pace (152 yards per game) Taylor is projected to run for 1,976 yards (over 13 games), which would register the second-best single season performance by a Wisconsin freshman and the fourth-best single-season showing by a Badger ever. He could get 14 games in if the Badgers make the B1G Championship in addition to a bowl game.
Taylor is having a special season and should see his name appearing on more and more Heisman Trophy lists if he continues to pile on the numbers. He has six 100-yard games and three 200-yard showings, and his worst game of the year was a 73-yard effort after he left at halftime against Illinois with an injury.
If he stays healthy, Taylor has a great shot to challenge Dayne for the record as the Badgers close with Iowa (allowing 145.4 rush yards per game), Michigan (allowing 104.1 rush yards per game) and Minnesota (allowing 132.8 rush yards per game).