Michigan State posed the first major challenge to Jonathan Taylor on the other side of the ball this season. Prior to this matchup, Taylor had averaged 150 yards per game. This stat, while impressive in its own right, fails to take into account the fact that Taylor rarely played after the third quarter as Wisconsin strolled its way to a 6-0 record.
Furthermore, the Spartan defense held Taylor to just 3.1 yards per carry on 26 attempts, for a total of 80 yards. The last time Taylor ran the ball 26 times this season was against Northwestern when he went for 119 total yards.
His lack of production certainly wasn’t because of a lack of attempts, Michigan State simply shut him down when it counted. This average of 3.1 yards per carry is 1.5 yards lower than his previous season low against Northwestern.
There is quite a lot of hype surrounding Taylor and his Heisman Trophy hopes especially after his over 200-yard performance against Michigan, their first ranked opponent of the season. Often, it’s this hype alone that can drive a candidate toward a higher spot in Heisman power rankings.
It’s because of this that Taylor can remain in the conversation despite not playing in the fourth quarter for much of this season. But when the rubber meets the road, he’ll have to be able to put up better numbers than what he did against Michigan State.
This is not an indictment of his performance against the Spartans — in fact, it is only because of Taylor’s talent that the Spartans had to spend so much energy on stopping him. Rather, it’s simply an observation that 80 yard rushing games against Big Ten opponents won’t be enough for Taylor’s trip to New York to be fruitful.
This is especially true when other Heisman hopefuls are putting up massive performances week in and week out. While top contender Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of Alabama had a bye week, quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts were hard at work.
Burrow, in LSU’s victory over Florida, had 21 completions on 24 attempts for 293 yards. On top of that, he had three touchdowns as LSU took down the No. 7 ranked Florida. Hurts didn’t do quite as well with his passing game as his completion rate was just 57% as he threw for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception. While he couldn’t keep up with Burrow through the air, he dusted him on the ground.
Hurts rushed for 131 yards on just 17 attempts, a better performance on the ground than Taylor by far. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry against a No. 11 ranked Texas team, Michigan State is unranked.
Time remains in the season for Taylor to prove his metal, and perhaps the best opportunity for this is against The Ohio State University later this month. With a strong performance and a Badger win, he could prove his ability to run against a top defense as well as take down Justin Fields as a Heisman contender.