Offensive MVP – Jonathan Taylor
Coming into the season, it was somewhat hard for me to imagine Jonathan Taylor matching or exceeding his historic performance in 2017, a season in which he came pretty much out of nowhere to break Adrian Peterson’s all-time freshman rushing record with a jaw-dropping 1,977 total yards.
After five games this season, those concerns have been largely put to rest. Taylor has picked up right where he left off last year and has left no question that he is the best running back in college football right now.
The stats speak for themselves. Taylor’s 849 rushing yards are tops in the Big Ten and the third-most by any player in the FBS, while his 8 rushing touchdowns also lead the conference and have him tied for seventh-most in the FBS. Taylor is also averaging 6.7 yards per carry, which is actually up from his impressive 2017 average of 6.6.
The Heisman Trophy race has two clear frontrunners in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, but Taylor deserves to be mentioned in that next tier of players and could make a strong case for himself if he continues to play this well and Wisconsin keeps winning.
Runner-up: The offensive line
The big boys up front did not start off the year on the right foot, looking pretty sloppy in Wisconsin’s first three games. However, the BYU loss seems to have been an effective wake-up call, and the line has stepped up in the last two games against Iowa and Nebraska, playing a crucial role in those victories and helping to keep this team’s College Football Playoff hopes alive. Taylor is obviously a rare and special talent, but much of what he has been able to accomplish is in part thanks to his linemen, who have been paving huge holes for him lately.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in both pass-blocking and run-blocking grades. Center Tyler Biadasz and guard Beau Benzschawel have been particularly impressive, as they are the two highest-grade offensive line starters in the conference.
It took a few games, but this Wisconsin offensive line has finally begun to resemble the unit that everyone thought it would be to begin the season.