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Is Wisconsin Football RBU?

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Wisconsin Badgers Football

The title of “RBU” is among the most coveted in college football. Fans have been arguing for their alma mater to claim the mantle for years and are not likely to stop anytime soon. Wisconsin football has as robust a claim as any for the title. A tradition of great running backs wearing the cardinal and white continues to this day with Braelon Allen. With award winners, career rushing totals, and single-season spectaculars, the Badgers consistently produce elite rushers.

Sep 3, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) rushes for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Illinois State Redbirds at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin football Doak Walker Award winners

College football’s best running back is awarded the Doak Walker Award. First awarded in 1990, Badgers have been recipients of the Doak Walker Award five times. Ron Dayne won the award in 1999, followed by Montee Ball in 2012, Melvin Gordon in 2014, and Jonathan Taylor in 2018 and 2019. With his victories, Taylor joined Texas’ Ricky Williams (1997, 1998) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (2006, 2007) as the only players to win the award more than once.

Wisconsin’s five total Doak Walker Award wins are tied for most all-time. The only other program with five Doak Walker Award wins is Texas. The Longhorns reached five total winners when Bijan Robinson won the award after the 2022 season.

Wisconsin football career rushing leaders

Wisconsin football is home to many of the best running backs ever. Ron Dayne is college football’s all-time leading rusher. That statement is controversial because the NCAA did not include bowl game rushing yards in totals until 2002. However, whether those bowl yards are included or not, Wisconsin running backs are the cream of the crop.

With bowl yards included, Dayne amassed the most yards all-time, followed by fellow Badgers Jonathan Taylor at sixth, Montee Ball at 19th, Melvin Gordon at 33rd, and Anthony Davis at 47th. No matter how you slice up those five, the Badgers come out on top. No program has more career-rushing leaders in the top 10, 20, 35, or 50 than Wisconsin. UW’s five running backs in the top 50 blows away the field. No other school can claim more than two of the 50 best rushers in history.

Take out bowl yards, and Wisconsin’s dominance does not fade. Dayne falls to second, but Taylor ascends to fourth – making the Badgers the only program with two of college football’s top five career rushers. Ball remains 19th, giving Wisconsin the only program with three in the top 20.

Badger running backs single season records

Single seasons with miraculous rushing totals are commonplace in Madison. Melvin Gordon’s amassed the second-most yards in a single season during his 2014 campaign (2587). Jonathan Taylor is close behind after racking up 2194 yards in 2018 – the seventh most ever.

Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon (25) on the bench during the first half in the 2015 Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The controversy over Ron Dayne’s accomplishments rears its ugly head again in the single-season record book. Unofficially, Dayne’s 2109 yards in 1996 is 17th all-time. Despite knowing that Dayne rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns against Utah in the Copper Bowl, the NCAA does not recognize those yards for record-keeping purposes. Unofficially, Dayne’s 1996 season gives Wisconsin three individual rushing seasons in the top 17 – again, the most of any program.

Controversy aside, UW is the only school with three single-season rushing totals in the top 30. Taylor pops up again in the NCAA record book with 2,003 yards in 2019. Taylor’s 2018 and 2019 seasons make him the only player in college football with two separate single-season totals in the top 30.

Is Wisconsin football RBU?

Wisconsin football’s case for RBU is as solid as any other program in the country. The Badgers’ ground-and-pound tradition has awarded them with impressive running backs year in and year out. The only question remaining: will the Air Raid offense allow Wisconsin to continue its claim to RBU?


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Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin football, basketball, hockey, and volleyball. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.

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