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Badger Bits: Who was the best Wisconsin running back of the '00s?

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Run-heavy offenses have long defined the Big Ten, and the conference has produced several fine running backs in the last decade. Many of these backs came from Wisconsin, a program that identifies with the power running game perhaps more than any other in the NCAA.

The Big Ten Network compiled a list of the top 10 Big Ten backs of the last decade, and a couple of things from the list surprised me. First, only one Badger was included, and second, that back was John Clay. I'm not trying to indict Clay, but I'm not even sure if he was one of the top three Wisconsin backs of the 2000s.

Clay rushed for 3,412 yards on 686 carries (5.0 yards per carry) and scored 29 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin. His best season came in 2009, when he rushed for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Not bad, but P.J. Hill's numbers are better than Clay's in almost every category. In his career, Hill rushed for 3,942 yards and 42 touchdowns on 770 carries (5.1 ypc). In 2006, Hill rushed for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Anthony Davis also had a better career than Clay, rushing for 4,676 yards and 42 touchdowns from 2001-2004. The best individual season from a Wisconsin running back in the 2000s was Brian Calhoun's 2005 campaign. Calhoun racked up 1,636 rushing yards, 571 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns that season.

I know lists like the one put together by the BTN are essentially meaningless, but you'd think they'd at least give consideration to the other guys who helped Wisconsin build the program to the level it is now.


Elsewhere, Bret Bielema says his team is ready to handle the national exposure they're receiving during their bye week and that he'd like to keep it that way. Russell Wilson appeared on Pardon the Interruption yesterday, but Bielema says he "deserves (all the) recognition he can get."

Wilson appeared on five of the six Heisman ballots over at CBS Sports. Dennis Dodd even has him at No. 1.

Wilson also jumped to No. 2 in ESPN's Heisman predictor. Denard Robinson still leads the way, so the door is definitely open for Wilson to claim the top spot.

More Wilson praise: he took over the top quarterback spot at's position power rankings. Also appearing: Montee Ball (No. 8 RB), Nick Toon (No. 22 WR), Peter Konz (No. 7 OL), Chris Borland (No. 20 LB), Paul Chryst (No. 3 offensive coordinator, Chris Ash (No. 14 defensive coordinator) and Bret Bielema (No. 5 head coach).

Steve Muench identified Kevin Zeitler as an NFL draft sleeper in his piece about the NCAA's top offensive linemen. Muench says he "has a chance to move up from the middle rounds" if he plays well for the Badgers down the stretch.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had a rough game Saturday, so it comes as no surprise he had little to say to the media about his three-interception game. One thing of note: Martinez thinks he does a "good job" reading defenses. LOL

Dave Heller updated his list of how the Badgers pass and run. While I'm not about to question Nick Toon's status as Wisconsin's No. 1 receiver, I don't think Jared Abbrederis is too far behind. Abbrederis made several tough catches Saturday, and now trails Toon by only one target and two catches.

ESPN's Andy Katz asked opposing coaches to give brief scouting reports on each of the 50 players selected for the Wooden Award watch list. Jordan Taylor is one of them.

Wisconsin's offense scores so often the Badgers might rotate kickers on their kickoff units. 

Ian McCue thinks Russell Wilson and 2011 recruit Bart Houston could begin a new tradition of elite quarterback play at Wisconsin. He may be right, but there might be a few seasons of uncertainty between the Wilson and Houston eras.

If you haven't heard already, Wisconsin officially launched a Heisman campaign for Wilson on Twitter.