Kirk Herbstreit explains 'Enormous' stakes in Wisconsin-Michigan game
It may lack some of the usual appeal and build-up of a usual primetime game in Ann Arbor, but Michigan hosting Wisconsin on Saturday night still has plenty of draw.
“Without having the normal energy, the hype and a buildup of a night game in Ann Arbor and the crowd of 100,000 people, you take away from that, I think what’s at stake here is enormous for both teams,” Herbstreit said Wednesday on a Zoom call previewing ABC’s broadcast of the game.
Wisconsin, who had last weekend’s game against Purdue cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols, is No. 13 in the nation but at 1-0, there are still plenty of question marks about this team. And with Michigan reeling after consecutive losses that saw them drop out of the polls, there are plenty of questions about the Wolverines as well.
Which leads Kirk Herbstreit to see this as an unconventionally intriguing game.
“And with Michigan off to a 1-2 start, the last two have not looked good,” Herbstreit said.
“There’s so much negativity surrounding that program and they need a win to quiet some of the nonsense and get it going in a better direction. From that standpoint if you’re a college football fan, even if you’re not a Wisconsin or Michigan fan, there’s a lot of buildup and a lot of intrigue about the game itself.”
More was expected of Michigan, especially after winning big in their season opener against Minnesota. Losses to Michigan State and then Indiana in subsequent weeks have created a bit of a firestorm around the program and, in particular, head coach Jim Harbaugh.
That loss to Michigan State, who in their season opener did not look good in Greg Schiano’s return to Rutgers, is especially stinging for the Wolverines.
The Badgers too, despite being a favorite to make the Big Ten Championship Game, have some things to answer. Their lone win of the year, against a struggling Illinois, wasn’t a true test for the Badgers. And with just one game played so far, there isn’t a big body of work to judge the program.
With Jack Coan injured, it was freshman quarterback Graham Mertz who took over for Wisconsin in their season opener. He was sharp but against Michigan, who despite their record are a talented and dangerous team, it will be a step-up in competition for the former four-star quarterback recruit. Mertz was also one of the players affected by the COVID-19 protocols, although he was expected back this week for practice.
“Wisconsin, everything that they endured after the opening game, what everybody’s talking about in the way their quarterback Graham Mertz played against Illinois with only one incompletion, and then to endure missing two games because of all the positive tests that they had. Now, here they finally come back. So I think that there’s a lot of intrigue there. Who is Wisconsin? We’ve only seen them play once.“
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night.