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Corey Clement on pace for Wisconsin’s 30th thousand-yard season

Wisconsin’s top rusher looks to join a long lineage of Badgers running backs.

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Through five games, the Wisconsin Badgers’ leading rusher is senior Corey Clement, who is 681 yards away from a 1,000-yard season, which would be the 30th in program history.

UW’s last thousand-yard season was turned in by Melvin Gordon, who rushed for 2,587 yards in 2014, a single-season school record.

This was the final season, in a stretch of 10 consecutive from 2005-14, with at least one Badger rushing for at least 1,000 yards. Wisconsin had another such stretch of 10 seasons from 1993-2002.

Of Wisconsin’s 29 thousand-yard rushing seasons, 22 have occurred since 1993, when Brent Moss amassed 1,637 yards. During that span, Wisconsin has finished with two running backs over 1,000 yards in a single season twice: in 2010, with James White (1,052) and John Clay (1,012), and again in 2013, when Gordon (1,609) and White (1,444) each accomplished the feat.

During this successful stretch of Wisconsin rushers, the most notable four-year-run was turned in by none other than Ron Dayne. The only running back in Wisconsin history to break the thousand-yard barrier in four straight seasons, Dayne rushed for an NCAA-record 6,397 rushing yards en route to a Heisman Trophy win following the 1999 season.

Wisconsin’s first streak of 10 seasons ended in 2003, when Dwayne Smith led the team with 857 yards. That same season, Anthony Davis, who led the Badgers in rushing with more than 1,000 yards in both 2001 and 2002, missed five games due to injury and amassed 682 yards on the ground. Davis then again missed four games in 2004, another season where the Badgers did not see a player break 1,000 yards. Davis finished at 973 yards that season in eight games.

Had Davis not missed nine games over the span of two seasons, he likely would have joined Dayne as the only other back to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. Their streak would have continued through the 2014 season, which would have been the 22nd consecutive.

Wisconsin’s leading rusher in 2015 was Dare Ogunbowale, who finished with 819 yards. Clement, who played sparingly in four games, finished with 221 yards.

In order to finish off another 1,000-yard season for UW, Clement would need to average 97.28 yards over the final seven games, of the regular season.

Clement, who left the Akron game early and missed the Georgia State game due to an ankle injury, returned against Michigan State to rush for 54 yards and two scores. He then ran for 68 yards against Michigan, averaging four yards per carry in a game where Wisconsin amassed 159 yards of total offense. Clement accounted for all but three of Wisconsin’s yards on the ground.

Clement will need to continue to be Wisconsin’s driving force on the ground, as the Badgers will face their staunchest rush defense of their remaining opponents in No. 2 Ohio State (97.5 yards/game) after this week’s bye. Ohio State (4-0) has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher in 2016.

Following their matchup with the Buckeyes, Clement’s best chances to crack the century mark will likely come on the road, as the none of the Badgers’ visiting counterparts allow over 123 yards per game on the ground, with the exception of Illinois.

Wisconsin visits Iowa (121.4 yards per game) Oct. 22, by which point the Hawkeyes will be a handful of games removed from allowing 239 rushing yards to FCS North Dakota State University, who defeated Iowa in Iowa City on Sept. 17.

After their trip to Iowa, Wisconsin will return to Madison to host Nebraska (109.8 rushing yards per game), then they will travel to Evanston to play Northwestern (157.8 per game), then back to Madison to host Illinois (169.3 per game).

Wisconsin will then head to Purdue (226.5 per game) for its final road game of the season. Following their matchup with the Boilermakers, the Badgers will battle their oldest rivals, Minnesota (123 per game), when they duke it out for Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the season finale.