Wisconsin football: Bold predictions for the Badgers vs. Indiana
The Wisconsin Badgers will return to the field once again after seeing their third regular season game canceled last weekend against Minnesota. Half of its games have been removed so far, but Wisconsin has a home matchup with Indiana on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET., ABC).
With that, let’s get to some bold predictions from a Badgers’ angle.
Jack Coan will see some playing time
Remember Jack Coan? He’s the guy who started all 14 games at quarterback for Wisconsin last season. He helped the Badgers to a 10-4 overall record and a B1G West title. Coan completed nearly 70% of his passes with 2,727 yards, 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Prior to him taking over the position, Wisconsin really struggled with turnovers from the quarterback position really since Russell Wilson ran the show, particularly with Joel Stave and Alex Hornibrook. After playing in 5 games in 2018, checking in for an injured Hornibrook on multiple occasions, Coan took over once Hornibrook transferred to Florida State following spring practice.
Coan was widely expected to be the Badgers’ starting quarterback until he broke his right foot during a preseason practice. With Coan out, redshirt freshman Graham Mertz took over and started each of Wisconsin’s three games this season.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Coan has returned to practice and has been cleared to play. For the first time all season, Wisconsin will likely have every quarterback available.
So why would Coan be a part of this game?
My main reason for thinking this is it’s the final home game of the regular season, and this had to be an incredibly disappointing season for Coan, who likely expected to be the starting QB on a team that had very large goals heading into the year. There is an eligibility freeze for everybody in college football, but it’s up to the schools how they want to handle it. I haven’t seen any program make a ruling on what its plans are yet, so that’s all up in the air for Wisconsin’s seniors, including Coan. I would say it is highly unlikely Coan would ever take over as the full-time starter unless Mertz suffers an injury or his play takes a turn for the worst.
Regardless, whether it’s because of poor play from Mertz or making an appearance in garbage time, my boldest prediction for this game is Coan will play in a Wisconsin football uniform for the first time in 2020 on Saturday.
Multiple turnovers for Graham Mertz
Well, this would certainly help Coan’s cause to get some playing time. In Wisconsin’s last game, a 17-7 loss to Northwestern, the Badgers finished with 5 turnovers, 4 of which came from Mertz. He threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble in his first poor game as a college quarterback.
Indiana’s defense is not as good as Northwestern’s as a whole, but the Hoosiers are as opportunistic as they come. Through 6 games, the Hoosiers already have a nation’s-best 16 interceptions, at least 2 in every game. Indiana even forced Ohio State’s stud quarterback Justin Fields into 3 interceptions.
Depending on who is available for Wisconsin as pass-catchers, the Badgers could keep this impressive streak for Indiana going. Though Mertz did not play well against the Wildcats, the Badgers were without starting receivers Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis. In addition, receiver Jack Dunn and leading pass-catcher tight end Jake Ferguson were in and out of the game during the second half.
Jalen Berger hits 100 yards
Maybe this isn’t that bold, but it’s never happened before so I’d give it a 6.5 on the bold-o-meter. Through 3 games, the Badgers have yet to have a 100-yard rusher. True freshman Jalen Berger didn’t take the field in the first game of the season, but he reached 87 yards against Michigan and 93 against Northwestern, both of which were on 15 carries.
Berger has emerged as the go-to guy in the Wisconsin backfield and definitely has a chance to be the Badgers’ next great running back. The Hoosiers have been fairly good against the run in 2020, but they haven’t seen a rushing attack quite like Wisconsin’s outside of Ohio State, which went for 307 yards on the ground a few weeks ago against the Hoosiers.