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Melvin Gordon making case as one of nation's best runners

Evan Habeeb / USA TODAY Sports
Running back Melvin Gordon is having a breakthrough season for Wisconsin.

Yes, it's early to be talking about postseason awards, but the current frontrunner for Big Ten offensive MVP honors might be Wisconsin sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon.

Gordon (6-foot-1, 207 pounds), who redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, is fourth nationally in rushing at 159 yards per game. He has rushed for 477 yards on only 37 carries to produce a staggering 12.9-yard average.

Gordon scored on an 80-yard run in Saturday's loss at Arizona State, giving him a run of 60 yards or more in four of his past five games. In just 119 career carries, he already has seven rushes of at least 45 yards.

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Gordon ran for 621 yards last season as the Badgers' third-team tailback, but 328 of those yards came in two games (against UTEP and vs. Nebraska in the league title game). Conventional wisdom was that he would be Wisconsin's No. 2 tailback this season, behind senior James White. But while White has started each of the Badgers' first three games, it's Gordon who is the Badgers' best offensive player.

Gordon doesn't have sprinter's speed, but he generally is clocked in the low 4.5s in the 40. One positive is that he gets to top speed quickly, as he showed Saturday on his 80-yard run, which came on a jet sweep. He hit the corner and accelerated, and though two Arizona State defenders had the angle on him, he wasn't caught.

Gordon also is an effective between-the-tackles runner and can deliver a blow. He runs with patience and possesses the vision and instincts to find seams.

One question is whether he can handle a heavy workload. His single-game high in carries last season was 10, and his 15 carries against Arizona State were a career high. Given his production, look for him to achieve a new career high in that category before long.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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