The Wisconsin football team has already had a top-20 matchup this season. Unfortunately, the game didn’t go the Badgers’ way, despite Penn State letting them hang around and giving the Badgers two shots at the end of the game to win. The Badgers made a lot of bad mistakes that you wouldn’t expect out of a Wisconsin football team.
Next, the Badgers will face off with no. 12 Notre Dame. This isn’t going to be a cupcake like Eastern Michigan. If the Badgers want a chance at winning this game, there are a few things they are going to have to do.
1. Win the turnover battle
Uncharacteristically, the Badgers turned the ball over three times and forced zero turnovers against Penn State in their 16-10 loss in Week 1. All three turnovers took place in the red zone. That means they left a minimum of 9 points on the field, and maybe 12 if you count the blocked kick. The Penn State game is a game the Wisconsin football team should have won. But they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly and still had a chance to win it in the end.
The defense will keep them in the game, so if the offense can take care of the ball, they should be able to score enough to come out of Chicago with a victory.
2. Run the ball effectively
If there’s one thing the Wisconsin offense has done well so far this year, it’s running the ball. Transfer running back Chez Mellusi has run the ball for over 100 yards in each of his first two games and leads the team with 278 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
But Mellusi isn’t the only weapon the Badgers have. Jalen Berger showed what he could do against Eastern Michigan, after not playing at all in Week 1. Isaac Guerendo is a speed demon who blew by the Eagles for an 82-yard touchdown run in Week 2 as well.
When the Badgers can run the ball effectively, it can take pressure off of Graham Mertz. We’ll see how Mertz looks against the Irish, but early opinions on Mertz aren’t very high so far this season. He struggled mightily against Penn State but looked pretty good against Eastern Michigan, as he should have. So we still aren’t sure what Mertz we are going to get on Saturday, so if the Badgers can run the ball early and often, they should have a good chance to win.
3. Get Mertz into a rhythm
As previously stated, Mertz didn’t look great in Week 1. The Notre Dame defense is going to be closer to Penn State than Eastern Michigan, especially with Kyle Hamilton lurking in the secondary.
I think in order for Mertz to be successful, he has to get into a rhythm and build some confidence. When he has some time in the pocket, he has the ability to pick apart defenses. But if he is under pressure, I think he tends to stare down his favorite targets and forces throws, rather than go through his progressions.
Paul Chryst needs to put Mertz in a position to complete some easy passes early. The more he completes, the more confidence he will have. We all know what Mertz is capable of, we’ve seen it in the past. Getting him some confidence early could help him return closer to what we know he can be.