Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Freshmen QB Graham Mertz has tested positive for COVID meaning a mandatory 3 week absence per Big 10 rules.
The returning 2 year starter at QB for Wisconsin, Jack Coan, was lost in the pre-season due to surgery on a foot injury. Thanks to Coan's absence, massively hyped Freshmen Graham Mertz was launched into the starting role against Illinois. Mertz was the number one rated QB of the 2019 class, a massive get for the Badgers program. Coan may find himself entering the transfer portal after Mertz destroyed the Illini defense to the tune of 20/21 for 248 yds & 5 TDs. For the first time since Russell Wilson, it looked like Wisconsin had a difference maker at the Quarterback position.
The Badgers, like Alabama pre-Tua Tagovailoa, were only a QB away from capitalizing on a quality defense and outstanding backfield to push for a national title. Their one dimensional offense could never keep pace with their Big 10 East foes, Ohio State, keeping them out of the playoffs year in and year out. So with Mertz at the helm, this could be Wisconsin's year to finally break through and win the Big 10. However, losing Graham Mertz without Jack Coan to fill in leaves inexperienced 3rd stringer, Sophomore Chase Wolfe to lead the Badgers offense. Unfortunately for Wisconsin now WOLFE has tested positive too! It looks like potentially Danny Vandem Boom could see the field as the Badgers are now on their 4th string QB. Whoever ends up playing will have little to no experience.
The upcoming three weeks will test this team. Wisconsin travels to Nebraska this week to face Scott Frost and Co after their blowout loss to Ohio State last week. This should give the Badgers a good comparison as to how they compare to the Buckeyes through a common opponent. The following week sees Purdue come to Madison. The Boilermakers surprised by upsetting an Iowa team that many thought a Big 10 West contender. And lastly, Wisconsin must make a trip to Big Blue in a playoff eliminator.
Can Wisconsin survive this gauntlet without their most important offensive weapon? Frankly I don't think they can. Wisconsin's playoff season may have been derailed before it even began. Mertz is currently being retested to determine whether he had received a false positive or not; however, as of now he is out for the 21 day period. If Wolfe can avoid costly turnovers and lean on the always powerful Wisconsin ground game, they may survive but I'm doubtful about the Michigan game. For the Badger's sake, hope Graham Mertz's second test comes back negative.