Wisconsin football: 3 reasons to watch the Badgers the rest of the way
The Wisconsin Badgers have seen half of their scheduled games canceled this season, most recently Saturday’s annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against rival Minnesota. The latest cancellation made the Badgers ineligible to compete in the B1G title game. At this point, Wisconsin will likely play a maximum of 4 more games, with 2 regular-season games, the Champions Week matchup and a bowl game.
It’s a bit of a lost season for the Badgers, who have had 3 of their first 6 games canceled. Wisconsin became the 1st team in the B1G to fail to reach the minimum 6-game requirement to be able to compete for the conference title. Last week, Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose announced he will call it a college career and get himself ready for the NFL Draft.
The 2020 season has been a major disappointment for Wisconsin’s players, coaches, fans and everybody involved in the program, especially with such a talented roster and a 1st game that led to massive expectations that this could be a special season in Madison.
While Wisconsin has had pretty bad luck, there are still reasons for fans to keep following the Badgers the rest of the way.
Wisconsin’s redshirt freshman quarterback should be enough to keep Wisconsin, B1G and college football fans interested in this Badgers team. One of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Mertz has had mixed results through the first 3 games of his college career. He opened the B1G season by making his mark in the Wisconsin record books against Illinois, and after testing positive for COVID-19, he didn’t need to do a whole lot against Michigan. The last time out, Mertz really struggled in a 17-7 loss to Northwestern.
Through 3 games, he has looked like an elite college quarterback against the Illini, a game manager against the Wolverines and a freshman against the Wildcats. The future of Wisconsin looks extremely bright, and the main reason is that we finally get to see what the Badgers can do with the 1 piece that has been missing for years — a game-changing quarterback.
It will be interesting to see who can emerge as the pass-catchers in this offense and what the future will be at the position. The Badgers should do everything they can to take advantage of Mertz’s unique skill set over the next few years, because players like him don’t come around Madison too often. True freshman Chimere Dike has had a few promising moments early in his college career.
One of the biggest questions heading into the season was who would step in to replace Jonathan Taylor, among the most successful running backs in college football history during his 3 seasons with the Badgers. Replacing that type of production was unrealistic, but true freshman Jalen Berger appears to have emerged as the best player in Wisconsin’s backfield.
Berger made his college debut in Wisconsin’s 2nd game against Michigan and was the most efficient back, carrying the ball 15 times for 87 yards. The Badgers’ offense didn’t have much success at all against Northwestern, but Berger finished with good numbers with 15 carries for 93 yards. Wisconsin’s coaching staff might not want to put too much on him right away, but he probably should’ve gotten more looks with Nakia Watson (7 carries, 26 yards) and Garrett Groshek (7 carries, 10 yards) being rather ineffective.
Fans were waiting to see who would be the next powerhouse Wisconsin running back. Berger looks to be the guy who will make a big name for himself with the Badgers.
Wisconsin has a fun end to the season, assuming every game gets played. The Badgers are scheduled to return to the field Saturday for what would be their final home game of the regular season against Indiana. Unfortunately, Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s lower leg injury, suffered last Saturday against Maryland, could make this one a little less exciting. Wisconsin’s regular season is set to finish at Iowa, which is one of my favorite games every year in the B1G.
As for the B1G Champions Week on Dec. 19, Wisconsin could match up with Ohio State if the Buckeyes are forced to cancel 1 of their last 2 games. If not, I hope the conference will be flexible on that day and let Wisconsin and Minnesota play for the Axe.
In the latest bowl projections published by CBSSports.com, Wisconsin is in a New Year’s 6 bowl against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. That’s a pretty spicy matchup that should catch the eyes of fans of college football.