Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon breaks away for a touchdown against Massachusetts last fall. Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah are the nation's top two returning rushers and keys to their teams' bids to win the Big Ten Conference West Division.

The Journal Star has been previewing Big Ten teams heading into fall camps. Today we look at Wisconsin, the last of the league teams on our list; coming Sunday, Nebraska's four nonconference foes.



FIRST GAME: Aug. 30, LSU (in Houston)

Big man on campus

Melvin Gordon, the fleet junior, is the best running back in college football, according to many experts, including Bucky Brooks of NFL.com. Brooks thinks it comes down to either Gordon or Todd Gurley of Georgia. Brooks gives the edge to Gordon: "He reminds me of a young Darren McFadden from a style standpoint, but I envision him becoming a more complete runner as a pro." The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Gordon, Brooks says, "quickly gets to top gear in the open field, but appears to have an extra burst when he needs to pull away from defenders on long runs. He simply has another gear that few defenders in the Big Ten can match ..." Plenty of NU defenders would vouch for that assessment.

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To-do list

Determine a starting quarterback — that will be second-year coach Gary Andersen's most important task. He'll judge a two-man race between incumbent Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, a dual-threat QB who transferred last season but struggled to pick up the offense and suffered a hand injury. With the 6-5, 225-pound Stave — a pure pocket passer — watching the spring game from the sideline because of a shoulder injury, McEvoy took repetitions with the first string. "I think I'm a lot more comfortable. I think it shows," McEvoy told reporters after the scrimmage.

What's new?

The Badgers basically feature a new starting front seven on defense. Thing is, it may be a quicker, more athletic group. What else is new? Well, it'll be interesting to see how UW's offense responds to life without standout wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Prevailing wisdom says Andersen will have to lean hard on the running game — not a bad alternative.

— Steven M. Sipple

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.​


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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