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Why Jonathan Taylor is deserving of Heisman consideration

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The hype train is real, and the stats back it up.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Often times, people with a platform such as this site will use position to unleash a hot-take and make an outlandish claim, causing and uproar from the masses.

Well, there is nothing hot or outlandish about this.

True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is putting up Heisman Trophy-worthy numbers for the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers.

Taylor currently leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (986), yards per game (164.3) and touchdowns (10). Taylor even leads the Big Ten in scoring with 60 points. Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin is second with 59.

If Taylor is able to keep his average at 164.3, he would best Ron Dayne’s UW freshman record of 2,109 yards—provided he plays in the same number of games that Dayne did as a freshman (13).

A freshman single-season record would push him into second in Wisconsin football history for the all-time single season mark, trailing only Melvin Gordon’s 2,587 set during the 2014 season.

Wisconsin’s current slate gives them 12 games, but with Wisconsin becoming bowl eligible with their 17-9 win over Purdue, the Badgers will be guaranteed at least 13 games this season and possibly more with the potential of the Big Ten Championship game and College Football Playoff.

The list of accolades for the 5’11, 214-pound true freshman from Salem, N.J. is impressive.

Taylor has already taken home quite a bit of hardware this season, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times through six games and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week twice. He was also just named earlier this week to the AP second team midseason All-America team—the only freshman to make the list.

Taylor’s first Big Ten honors, earning both co-offensive player of the week and freshman of the week, came Sept. 11 following a 223-yard, three-touchdown effort against Florida Atlantic in his first career start.

He accomplished the same feat on Oct. 9 when he took home both awards after running for a career-high 249 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska.

Finally, Taylor won freshman of the week honors again this past Monday after recording his third 200-yard performance of his short career against Purdue, picking up 219 yards and a 67-yard touchdown run.

Taylor's three 200-yard performances are the most by any player in the Power 5 conferences.

Nationally, Taylor is sixth in the NCAA in rushing yards, eleventh in yards per carry (7.8) and tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns.

The other contenders

It’s worth noting the other college football standouts who could hear their name called in December. Let’s take a look at the Nissan Heisman House rankings, where the current four players are all upperclassmen.

  • Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) is currently second in the nation in passing yards (2,368) with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.
  • Senior quarterback Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) leads the nation in passer rating (207.3) and completion percentage (72.7), and is on the AP All-American midseason first team.
  • Junior Bryce Love (Stanford) joins Mayfield on the first team AP team, leading the nation in rushing who has racked up 1,387 yards through seven games.
  • Then there’s fellow Big Ten running back, Penn State's Saquon Barkley. The junior is the current Heisman front-runner with his all-around game. The explosive back currently has 649 yards on the ground, a 108.2 yard average, and nine total touchdowns.

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman ranked Taylor as one of his “Heisman Five” this week, replacing Rudolph with Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick on his list.

When comparing the two Big Ten backs in their offensive production, it is easy to see that Taylor clearly has the edge on the ground, but Barkley also has 395 receiving yards on the season and 258 return yards, the latter including a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Halfway through the 2017 season, Taylor appears to be getting stronger as the Badgers move along, having recorded back-to-back 200-yards games.

Of Wisconsin's remaining opponents, only two of the six rank in the top-half of the Big Ten in rush defense—Michigan (second, allowing 85.8 yards per game) and Minnesota (seventh, 136 yards per game).

Given the oppositions inability to stop the run, there is a chance that Taylor will get plenty of opportunities to improve on his already stellar freshman campaign. That could inch him closer to an invitation to the 2017 Heisman Trophy Announcement, Dec. 9, in New York City.