Michigan Football: 3 Keys to beating Wisconsin Badgers

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

1. Force Graham Mertz to Beat You

Wisconsin brings in starting quarterback — once freshman phenom — Graham Mertz. Mertz is the highest-rated quarterback recruit that Wisconsin has ever signed, but he has hardly lived up to expectations.

This season Graham Mertz is averaging right at about 200 yards per game which is respectable especially on a historically dominant running team like the Badgers. But his other stats are troubling.

Mertz is completing just north of 55% of his passes, has 1td, and 6ints to date. And what’s more troubling is that he ranks 116 of 121 division-1 college quarterbacks in efficiency.

Notice what Badger of Honor site expert, Christian Borman has to say regarding Mertz’ poor play:

"In 2020, Mertz didn’t look great outside of their first game against Illinois. Many, myself included, attributed that to him getting covid and being banged up for most of the season. It was also easy to point at the fact that Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor missed most of the season as well. So the optimism for 2021 was high because he was healthy, had another year within the offense, and had most of his weapons returning with the addition of Chez Mellusi as well. Well, this year hasn’t been any better. In fact, it might even be worse. He is a turnover machine. He can’t seem to handle pressure either. In situations where he needs to make a play, he seemingly throws the ball into pressure and it gets picked. He has one touchdown and six interceptions this year. It’s horrific. I was all aboard the Graham Mertz hype train entering the season, but it’s getting very hard to defend his poor play anymore. The only problem is, I’m not sure there’s a better option for the Wisconsin football team at quarterback, which is quite a scary thought."

Strong words spoken by someone who would know the situation better than many other outside voices.

So how can Michigan football exploit the poor play of Mertz?

Don’t let him get in any position that could make him the least bit comfortable. Last week against Rutgers we saw Michigan give up A LOT of underneath and quick-out routes. That’s the last thing that needs to happen against a guy who is going to be looking to take the easy stuff in hopes of raising his confidence.

Get after Mertz and get after him early. Aidan Hutchinson and the rest of the defensive line should be in Mertz’  face all day, and with a defensive backfield that features some of the Big Ten’s better defenders in Dax Hill and Gemon Green this defense is set up to continue the string of Mertz’ poor play and come out with a win.