At one point this season, Wisconsin sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon was a top Heisman candidate who looked as if he had a shot at leading the nation in rushing.
Now he may not even finish as his team's leading rusher.
Gordon's production has dropped markedly in the past month. Through October, he was averaging 144.6 rushing yards per game and had 11 touchdowns. Going into Saturday's regular-season finale against Penn State, Gordon's average has dropped to 125 yards per game and he has scored only one other TD.
His drop in production has coincided with an uptick in senior James White's numbers. While Gordon has rushed for 363 yards and a TD in the past four games, White has 609 yards and six TDs. For the season, Gordon is at 1,375 yards and White at 1,281.
Gordon had just 12 carries, for 69 yards, in last week's win at Minnesota. The carries total was his second-lowest of the season, ahead of only the nine he had against overmatched FCS opponent Tennessee Tech in the second game of the season.
Gordon fumbled on his first carry against the Gophers (it rolled out of bounds) early in the first quarter and didn't see the field again until early in the second quarter. Gordon told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he met with Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock this week.
"He just told me I backed him up in a corner by fumbling," Gordon said. "James has been consistent this year without putting the ball on the ground. It was a big game, and he was just more comfortable with James."
Gordon also fumbled on Wisconsin's first play of the second half the week before against Indiana.
"When you've got two good running backs, they're going to go with the one that's not putting the ball on the ground," Gordon said.
Badgers coach Gary Andersen says he's not worried about Gordon: "He is in a good spot. He'll be fine."
Last season, Gordon fumbled in back-to-back games in early October. But he was the third-team tailback last season and wasn't receiving much playing time anyway.
Gordon and White could have solid games Saturday against a so-so Penn State rush defense. While the Nittany Lions rank sixth in the Big Ten in rush defense, they are allowing 146.2 rushing yards per game, and teams that have made it a priority to run against Penn State have had success.