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Badger Bits: Which John Clay will we see on Saturday?

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Whether or not they want to admit it, I'm thinking there are some Badger fans out there who are worried about how John Clay will perform in the big game this Saturday against Ohio State. Sure, he's put up some gaudy statistics so far this season (692 yards, 6.0 yard per carry average, and 9 touchdowns in 6 games). But from watching him so far this season, you can't help but think he's not playing at his highest level right now. A few culprits seem to be at play; his ankles are probably not 100%, and the often overblown issue of his weight might actually be a real issue. And with James White wowing the fans with his electrifying play, apparently Clay has tried to alter his running style to be more like White even though it's obvious they are two completely different backs. Really, JC?

Although Clay is third in the Big Ten in rushing, too often he has run tentatively, missed holes and tried to bounce runs to the outside. "The thing I try to get John to understand is that's not his game," John Settle said of Clay's tendency to emulate White's style and head for the outside.

Clay is going to have to shed any thoughts of being tentative this weekend if the Badgers are going to find success on the ground. Thankfully, JC has already proven he can run effectively against the Buckeyes. In 2008, Clay's freshman season, he ran for 69 yards on 10 carries against Ohio State, and these highlights from that game show a running back that is doing less thinking and more running (well, two, but fortunately Beanie Wells is in the NFL now). Make sure you look at Clay's hurdle at 7:15 in the video...a thing of beauty.

Clay's 2009 performance against Ohio State was less auspicious. He only managed 59 yards on 20 carries, so he ended up with twice as many carries as 2008 and still didn't get as many yards. His longest run the entire game was 8 yards. He did have a nice run on a 4th and 2 to get a first down, but the Buckeye defense perfectly executed their game plan to shut him down and made the Badgers try to beat them with the passing game.

Wisconsin has a lot of other pressing issues and all-in-all Clay hasn't been terrible this year, but remember that we are talking about the defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. We should be expecting great things from him. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that John Clay has saved his best performance for under the lights at Camp Randall this Saturday, because James White can't do it alone.

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