By now, Wisconsin Badgers fans are aware what happened Saturday against Notre Dame. Graham Mertz was awful again. To this point, it’s fair to say he’s regressed over the course of his short career with the Badgers. He doesn’t get a pass at all for Saturday. Badgers fans have been on this kid non-stop for the last two days. Graham Mertz does deserve a good chunk of the blame, but so does head coach Paul Chryst.
The Offense Has Become Lifeless
I'll keep this simple:
Graham Mertz… what happened?
— Coach Riley (@BadgersRiley) September 25, 2021
Stale would be a fair word you could say about this offense through three games. The Badgers are 9-9 in their last 18 games, a majority because of the offense. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s been stale, but I believe lifeless is a better word to describe this offense.
If I’m an opponent of the the Wisconsin Badgers, I know the ball is most likely going to two players. That would be running back Chez Mellusi or tight end Jake Ferguson. Rightfully so because these two have become really good players in this offense.
This offense has two solid receivers in Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor. I know both combined for 11 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. These two need to be involved more. As much as I love Mellusi, I want to see more Jalen Berger and Isaac Guerendo. There is no flashes and no creativity to this point. That is on Paul Chryst.
Mertz and Chryst Needs To Keep All Play-Makers Active
It sure looks like we have seen Graham Mertz stare down his first read and only throw to his first read. That’s okay if they’re open, but opposing defensive coordinators will catch on that quick. Right now, opposing defenses should be daring Graham Mertz to beat them and it looks like they have to this point.
How do you fix this? You get creative and get your play-makers the ball. How do you do that? Wisconsin runs the jet sweep very well and they have Davis III and Pryor to do that. We’ve seen little of that to this point.
Running the ball has had it’s moments, but it sure looks like the only running plays have been up the middle. Use your all-conference tackles and some misdirection. Jake Ferguson is one of the best tight ends in the country as well. Get creative with him. The Badger offense is very predictable right now. Talent isn’t the issue. They have plenty of it.
Leaving The Defense Hanging
When Notre Dame wasn't handed the ball at their own 40-yard line or better, #Badgers defense held them to 3 points on nine drives.
Six of those nine drives were a three-and-out and another ended with a takeaway.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) September 26, 2021
After a 41-13 beating from Notre Dame, 38 of the 41 points came from turnovers and special teams. You can’t ask this Badger defense to do any more than they are right now. This is a defense that can win a Big Ten Championship. It’s that good.
Football is a team game and it takes all three phases to be successful. However, you have to imagine this Badger defense is very frustrated. They have every right to be. The offense has to start rewarding their defense giving them the ball. This means not running the ball twice up the middle, a check-down, and a quick three and out.
If the offense can reward the defense, I guarantee you the Badger defense will return the favor. The quarterback play and play calling from the head coach has to get better and it has to be better quick.
The Road Doesn’t Get Easier
At this point, College Football Playoff aspirations are gone. Big Ten Championship hopes are there but are razor thin. There is no more margin for error anymore. The Badgers don’t get a game to figure it out. They welcome the Michigan Wolverines to Madison this weekend. The Wolverines are playing really good football and should be very confident coming into this game.
A few weeks later, #5 Iowa comes to town for a showdown as well. The road doesn’t get any easier. While the Badgers had a good chance to beat both Notre Dame and Penn State in week 1, there isn’t any reason any team should fear this Badger team right now.
I have been very critical throughout this whole piece. I know Graham Mertz has the potential and I know Paul Chryst is a great play caller. We just need to see it more and more. Mertz needs to trust his reads and be smart with the football. Paul Chryst also needs to make this offense creative. If you can get the defense on their toes, I guarantee you the field will open for Mertz. This will result in easier throws and more success. I guarantee you the field will open up for Mertz. This will result in easier throws and ultimately more confidence.