Remember those summer days?Way back when, in the dog days of July and August, the Wisconsin Badgers were one of the nation’s trendy, upstart teams of choice. Madison held expectations of extreme proportions for its beloved Badgers because, after all, this team was different from the letdowns of the past, most notably that 7-6 2008 squad. It was Rose Bowl or bust for Bucky, and even one of The Worldwide Leader’s “experts,” ESPN3.com’s Christian Fauria, pegged Wisconsin as his national champion.Right up there with the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl aspirations was the hope – no, expectation – that running back John Clay would put together a Heisman-worthy 2010 campaign. After all, with such a veteran offense and talented offensive line, Clay would have to try not to have a sensational year. Besides, this is Wisconsin. They kind of like to run the ball here.Flash-forward to, well, now.A Big Ten championship and BCS bowl berth aren’t totally out of the picture, but with Wisconsin’s loss at Michigan State, the romance of the season was swiftly whisked away. Yes, holding on to the Axe this past weekend restored some of those good vibes, but make no mistake – with that defeat in East Lansing, a real air of honest, rational assessment swept through Madison. Perhaps, for the first time this season.What did it bring? Well, a lot of things. With Chris Borland gone for the season, the defense was exposed as having a real lack of playmakers aside from J.J. Watt. Special teams was exposed as being vulnerable to serious lapses in performance. Even the offensive line has looked suspect, at times.Yet, the single most important, honest assessment that has struck these Badgers is that Clay is no longer the best running back on the team.Yes, the bruising back is second in the conference and seventh in the nation in rushing yards, with 692. Yes, he ran for 111 yards on 21 carries (5.3 yards per) and three touchdowns against Minnesota Saturday. Still, John Clay is no longer the best Badger back.That title now belongs to true freshman James White. With 485 yards on only 63 carries (7.7 yards per) and eight touchdowns, White has been a revelation for Wisconsin six games into the season. Despite beginning the season as the Badgers’ No. 3 back behind Clay and Montee Ball, White’s top-end speed and breakaway ability – something Clay and Ball clearly lack – proved too irresistible to continually limit his carries. Thus, White leapfrogged Ball on the depth chart before the Austin Peay game and never really looked back.In that 70-3 beatdown of the Governors, White wreaked havoc with his 11 carries, amassing 145 yards (13.2 per carry) and four touchdowns. Granted, Wisconsin-Austin Peay is as lopsided a matchup as you can conceive, so the final stats deserve to be taken with a grain of salt. However, White’s performance against the Governors showed all of Madison what he can do, and how successful the offense can be with him garnering double-digit carries.One week later, Wisconsin traveled to East Lansing for that miserable 34-24 upset. The Spartans have proven to be much better than many preseason prognosticators expected, but there’s no mistaking that the Badgers were purely lethargic at Spartan Stadium. Yet, it was White who really was the sole bright spot in that game, running for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries – 18 yards more than Clay, who had seven more carries and no touchdowns.With his squad needing a giant pickup in time to battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe the following week, head coach Bret Bielema spoke of giving White even more carries, of going with whoever was the best back at that time. While the whole team responded with a 41-23 drubbing of an absolutely over-matched Minnesota team, it was White and Clay who combined for 230 rushing yards – nearly more total yards than the entire Minnesota team – and five scores. It was even Clay, who had been facing consistent scrutiny in the face of White’s emergence, garnering the headlines with 111 of those yards and three of those touchdowns.So why, with the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes coming to town this weekend, is it time to declare White the better running back? Because, Clay – despite still putting up solid numbers – has been a beneficiary of the offensive line opening up huge, huge running lanes. When the holes aren’t there, Clay suddenly has a tendency to pitter-patter at the line.This isn’t coming just from the Minnesota game, and not even from the Michigan State game one week earlier. Steadily, throughout the season, Clay has come up short of living up to his reputation as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Too many times Clay has been brought down by ankle tackles on runs he should have broken for longer. Too many times, he’s just been too hesitant at the line when those holes aren’t there.That being said, this is no indictment of Clay or his abilities. He remains a good running back, and may not even be totally healthy after offseason ankle surgeries. Throughout the duration of White’s emergence, Clay has maintained a strong, team-first attitude and has always been among the first to commend White.Perhaps Clay needed more carries during the non-conference portion of the schedule, when Bielema and his staff admittedly avoided giving him too much work in an effort to keep him fresh for Big Ten play. Whatever it was, this is more about White’s arrival than any fault of Clay’s. That was never clearer than it was against Minnesota, when White repeatedly did things that true freshmen just do not do, especially in the Big Ten.Pass attempt after pass attempt, White stepped up and was exemplary in pass protection. Coaches always preach the ability to pass block as a top priority for their running backs, and some just can’t do it well. Yet, there were at least three distinct plays against the Gophers where, from all the way up in the press box, it was clear that White totally stood up his defender, allowing Tolzien to finish an efficient 17 for 23.Furthermore, the 5-10, 198 lb. back – dwarfed in comparison to Clay – runs as strong as anybody. Unmistakably, White does not shy away from contact – he sees it coming, lowers his shoulder and takes it on. With a little more than 3:30 left on the clock against the Gophers and the Badgers up by 18, White took the ball from Tolzien, bounced it to the right, rushed for four yards and plowed his shoulder right into the oncoming tackler, picking up a first down in the process.It wasn’t a huge play, as the game was already in hand and all Wisconsin needed to do was run the clock down, but White’s final run that day resonated significantly. Again, this isn’t about Clay. It’s about White, who is now UW’s best option at running back.Mike is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. James White is the Badgers’ top back? Let him know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mikefiammetta.