The Big Ten's leading rusher is not Wisconsin running back Montee Ball nor is Michigan State's LeVeon Bell or Edwin Baker. Michigan's do-everything quarterback Denard Robinson is not at the top either.
Penn State sophomore running back Silas Redd currently leads the Big Ten in rushing, although he has played one more game than most of the other leading candidates, with 869 rushing yards. Redd has rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games and has achieved a new career high in two of those performances, including Saturday's 169-yard performance against Northwestern in a 34-24 win for the Nittany Lions.
"As a quarterback, I'm lucky to have Silas [Redd] as a running back and the team is lucky to have him," Matt McGloin said following Penn State's win against Northwestern. "He makes my job so much easier, he makes coach's job so much easier, he can explode at anytime."
Redd, who still watches YouTube clips of legendary running backs from the NFL and Penn State's past, is feeling good about his progress as a featured back. "I feel good, like I'm hitting my stride," Redd said two weeks ago following Penn State's win against Purdue. He certainly should feel confident because people around the nation are beginning to notice his efforts.
"The Nittany Lions have a budding superstar in their backfield," ESPN.com's Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett posted on their weekly conference helmet stickers post this week.
Redd is currently on pace to break Penn State's sophomore rushing record, currently held by Evan Royster (1,236 yards in 2008), and already has many tracking his progress to Penn State's all-time rushing record, also held by Royster (3,932 yards, set last season). After breaking Curt Warner's Penn State rushing record last season even Royster was quick to say that it would not last long with Redd in the game. For those keeping track, Redd is a mere 2,626 rushing yards away from tying Royster's school record.
Since the calendar flipped to October Redd has rushed for 566 yards, which the Big Ten Network notes is second most in the FBS behind Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey. Redd's 103 rushing attempts are third most in the FBS since October 1 as well, behind Rainey (131) and North Texas running back Lance Dunbar (117). If nothing else, the numbers prove that Redd has become more of a factor in the game plan for the Penn State offense. Before October Redd had carried the ball more than 16 times in a game just once (22 against Alabama). That may be largely in part due to the level of competition as well. Against schools like Eastern Michigan and Indiana State the need for a heavy workload from Redd was not very high.
Redd’s streak of 100-yard games started against Indiana, ranked 117th in the nation in rushing defense, and continued against Iowa (68th), Purdue (55th) and Northwestern (80th). In September he faced Alabama (1st), Temple (10th) and Eastern Michigan (57th). In November he will go up against Nebraska (70th), Ohio State (27th) and finish up with Wisconsin (35th). This week he lines up agianst Illinois (18th).
But even as October has seen a heavier workload for Redd, Redd's touchdown total has slowed down since September. Redd scored four touchdowns in the first month of the season but he has scored just twice this month, adding his second on Saturday in Evanston.
Redd has one more crack in the month of October before the biggest games of the season (Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin) take place in November. If Penn State is going to make a run in the Big Ten, then they will need Redd to continue playing well as the competition gets tougher and more physical. Paterno has said he is concerned about his younger players taking on a heftier workload, but he should not be as concerned with Redd, who is the focal point of the offense at this point.
Redd and Penn State will host Illinois this weekend in a key Leaders Division match-up. With a win Penn State will move to 5-0 in Big Ten play with three games to play. Penn State is the last undefeated team in the Leaders Division, meaning they now control their own destiny in the Big Ten championship game picture.