Badgers fans and college football analysts can agree, Wisconsin has been far below expectations this season. Everyone can agree that bad starts can happen and in reality this is not a bad team. There are some great aspects of the team, but also some aspects that certainly need work.
Firing a head coach usually ends the complete competitive nature of a season. It is obviously difficult to keep playing hard after watching your coach lose his job. The season is not lost, however, and the Badgers certainly have a chance to still save it. But, where did the Wisconsin Badgers go wrong in 2022?
The Art of the Turnover
First and foremost, turnovers have plagued the Badgers all year. Eight turnovers across five games isn’t great, but realistically, it is manageable. However, this issue hasn’t been the frequency but rather the unfortunate timing of each one for the Badgers.
Taz Nicholson pick, another look. pic.twitter.com/lcDALf0Am9
— Illinois Football Focus (@IlliniFB) October 1, 2022
In the first loss of the season against the Washington State Cougars, the Badgers had three turnovers. Each one occurred when the team was driving, however, and the interception by Mertz came right outside of the red zone. Clay Cundiff is tackled from behind later in the game and fumbles to effectively end the game. Mistakes happen and they can’t be held against the players. Although, the turnovers are a scary trend that has affected the Badgers.
Another example would be the opening interception against Ohio State. After Mertz threw it, it gave Ohio State a short field and the morale didn’t seem there the rest of the game. The Badgers couldn’t get anything going until the end of the game on offense. The offense had eight drives with less than 10 yards gained following the turnover.
Game Plans and Preparation
Obviously, the downfall of these games weren’t solely because of the turnovers. The Badgers played flat in both games, and the turnovers are just an added effect. Another reason the Badgers have struggled this year is due to their preparedness for each game. It is difficult to decide whether or not a team is ready for a game since nobody else is inside the locker room every moment besides the team and the staff.
Instead, preparation and the strength of a game plan can be decided based on the result, competition, and team performance. A perfect example of this starts with the Ohio State game, where the Badgers struggled to do much of anything. Unfortunately, the Badgers probably weren’t going to beat Ohio State this year considering the age and experience difference between the teams. While no analysts and fans expected the Badgers to light it up, they certainly should’ve done better than how they performed.
The first half in particular the offense couldn’t manage to do anything. The same can be said about the offense against Illinois, except it occurred in the second half. The Badgers have experienced times this season where the offense basically vanishes for a whole half. This is a talented defense that can only stop teams so much, and the Badgers have fallen into a trap where they create insurmountable leads when they struggle to score. The defense has been on the field far longer this year, and attrition can be very real for these young players.
The fact that the Badgers have made the same mistakes against all competition is actually a good thing. It is certainly not fun to endure, but it makes knowing what needs to be fixed easier. The Badgers don’t look prepared enough this year since these mistakes continue to occur. A team “Vanishing” for a whole half is a very concerning trend the Badgers need to fix before the season is really lost.
Hammering the Run Game
Wisconsin, like many other schools, is historically a run-first offense. There has always been a stud feature back, along with another back used to change the pace. The issue with the run game this year for the Badgers really hasn’t been anything, honestly. The problem is when the plays are being called and how the run game has been utilized. Last Saturday against Illinois in particular the Badgers ran the ball significantly.
Mertz was forced to throw 33 times again, which is odd for him, but they mainly came later in the game when Illinois had a large lead. The Badgers longest run was for five yards and they kept running up the middle, despite Illinois having the Badgers’ number all game.
Balancing the Offense Ahead of Time
There certainly isn’t a problem with running the ball when there is a stud in the backfield like Braelon Allen. However, the Badgers line hasn’t been the same and there have been times this year where the run game gets stuffed. Mertz and company look awkward when they are forced to pass which may be contributing to the large amount of incompletions.
The run game will break away at some point and Allen will show his full ability. Although, the Badgers need some help until then. Passing the ball a bit extra could help them keep manageable games. When the Badgers let the game go too far out of reach, no amount of running or passing can fix it.