The Wisconsin Badgers’ stud running back, Montee Ball, sits just five touchdowns back of the legendary Barry Sanders’ single-season collegiate touchdown record. Ball’s four touchdown performance versus Penn State gave the junior 34 on the season.
With two games left, can the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year eclipse the 39 touchdowns Sanders accumulated for Oklahoma State in the 1988 season?
Granted, Barry played in only 11 games that season, it’s still a record which hasn’t been touched in 23 years. Just to put in perspective how historic of a year it was for Sanders; in 11 games, he rushed for 2,638 yards on 344 carries (238.9 yards per game). Those are two records which may never be broken.
In contrast, Ball has 1,622 yards on 248 carries through 12 games this season. That’s good for an average of 135.2 yards per game. On a yard-per attempt comparison, Sanders is ahead 7.7 to 6.5, but we’re not here to talk about yards, we’re discussing touchdowns.
Ball has two more games, one against a great defense and the other potentially coming against a Pac-12 school such as Stanford or Oregon, both of which rank well below (24th and 64th respectably) what the Badgers have come accustomed to in the Big Ten.
That’s assuming the Badgers win in Indianapolis this weekend. Otherwise, they could end up in the Capital One Bowl against an SEC team with a better defense (five teams in the top ten). This is excluding Arkansas who ranks 51st nationally.
In the Big Ten Championship, Ball and the Badgers will face off with Michigan State’s third ranked defense. In their last meeting, Montee carried the ball 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two balls for 24 yards and another touchdown. It’s not crazy to think the Championship game will be low-scoring, so let’s say Montee Ball scores two touchdowns because he has done at least that in every game this season.
In order to break the record, he will need four touchdowns in the Badgers bowl game. This is something Ball has done three times this season, against UNLV, Nebraska and Penn State. The Nittany Lions rank 11th in defense, Nebraska is 36th and UNLV is a dreadful 106th. However, all three of these games were at Camp Randall, a luxury the Badgers do not have in the postseason.
Analyzing the numbers and odds, I would say it’s probably unlikely that Montee Ball breaks Barry Sanders’ impressive single-season touchdown record. And even if he did, because anything is possible, it wouldn’t come close to the dominance Sanders layed down during that special 1988 season.
You know it’s been a long time since that 1988 season when reporters ask whether or not Montee Ball remembers watching Sanders during his youth only to find out he’s too young. Sanders last played for the Detroit Lions during the 1998 season when Montee was at the age of eight.
What do you think, will he break the record? Do you remember the greatness that Barry Sanders displayed? Do you see the same thing in Montee Ball? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.Follow paulmbanks