Another Wisconsin football player has garnered preseason honors. This time, quarterback Graham Mertz has been named to a preseason watch list. The Davey O’Brien Award recognized the nation’s top quarterback. Thirty quarterbacks from around the NCAA have been named to the watch list, and Graham Mertz is one of them.
Mertz had a well-documented start to his Wisconsin football career when he threw for five touchdowns in a beatdown over Illinois. After he completed 20-of-21 passes (95% completion) for 248 yards and the five scores, many thought he was on his way to being the best quarterback in Wisconsin football history, but they were quickly humbled.
Mertz came crashing back down to Earth for the rest of the season. After the Illinois game, he completed just 98-of-172 passes (57%) and threw for 990 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions in the final six games of the season.
Mertz reportedly suffered an injury, got covid, and had a very irregular schedule that probably got him out of any sort of rhythm. Both of his top receivers missed most of the season last year as well.
I’m not trying to make excuses for the signal-caller for the Wisconsin football team, but the way last season played out, it couldn’t have been an easy way to start your college football career.
Odds are, Mertz’s true playing form falls between the two types of performances. It would be almost impossible to play as well as he did against Illinois every game, but he’s likely much better than he was most of last season.
With a year of experience under his belt, his top targets returning on offense, and one of the top defense in the country, expectations remain high for Mertz, despite how his first season played out.
Mertz is one of three quarterbacks from the Big Ten on the preseason watch list. Joining him are Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan and Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr.