Wisconsin Preview 2021

Welp… here come the Badgers. This team is better than Oklahoma or Michigan State when we played them. However, they aren’t better than Ohio State who we hung around with, so that is somewhat encouraging.

What concerns me is that Wisconsin has their fate in their own hands. If they win out against us and then Minnesota next week, they are heading to the conference championship game in Indianapolis. That could spell disaster for Nebraska since the Badgers easily handled Northwestern last week and were able to take their foot off the gas. Further, Nebraska just got done firing 4 full-time offensive assistants and are only left with Frost and Beckton as the constant there. How will we gameplan and be ready as we face the nations #1 defense in yards allowed (216) and #2 defense in points allowed (14 ppg)?

I also told people in one of my recruiting write-ups that what scared me about where we were is that 2021 was the first time that Wisconsin actually out-recruited Nebraska in terms of overall ranking and average star ranking. Looking at 247sports and their college team talent, this is the first time in the history of that metric that Wisconsin actually has the better players compared to Nebraska.


Is that the end all be all, no. But it does worry me for this game and beyond if they were beating us before with “lesser” players. I didn’t think i’d see the day where Wisconsin overtook us in player talent out of high school. But they did in 2021, and they are currently ahead of us for 2022. That doesn’t make the task on Saturday in Madison any easier.

Lastly, I do know of players that aren’t happy with the staff moves. Can our defense keep us close enough to have a chance in the end? Or are we going to fold because there isn’t a bowl game?

What will Wisconsin do offensively?

It starts with their QB Graham Mertz, a four star prospect out of the Kansas City area. People were scared of this guy as a true freshman. He came out and lit the world on fire, and then fell off a bit of a cliff back in 2020. The opposite has happened this year, where Mertz really struggled against Penn State and Notre Dame early in the season. It had Husker fans coming with “Wisconsin is beatable” based mostly on his play and our confidence with “it just feels different this year” was still pretty high.

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In his last three games he is completing 65% of his passes and has a 6TD to 2 INT stat. While those teams are Iowa, Rutgers, and Northwestern, there still is no doubt that Mertz is playing much better than he was in September. I do think our defense can bring him a little bit back down to earth, but his passing won’t be what determines the fate for Chryst and Wisconsin anyway.

The Badgers of course have an unreal RB in true freshman Braelon Allen who has 6 straight 100 yard rushing games and doesn’t even turn 18 until next month. Allen was a four star runningback out of Wisconsin, and the 135th ranked player in the country according to Rivals. Even with the Badgers losing their leading rusher 2 games ago in Chez Mellusi, Wisconsin is 8th in the country in rushing yards per game with 226 per contest. And a huge part of that is their offensive line and the emergence of Allen. They know who they are and didn’t deviate when they caught a tough break.

The Blackshirts absolutely have to force Mertz to throw, as that gets them out of their comfort zone and makes it so their statistics look much worse. Wisconsin is 115th in passing yards per game with 162 yards, and 93rd in completion percentage. While I know I stated Mertz is doing much better now, our only shot is to get him to throw and not let the Badgers offense run on us.

With that said, Mertz has an unbelievable “safety valve” in TE Jake Ferguson who was just accepted to the senior bowl like Domann was from our team.

The bright spot though is Wisconsin is fairly turnover prone, giving it over roughly 2 times per game. If Chinander and the defense can collect a few of those, we could be in business.

Wisconsin on Defense

Wisconsin runs the exact defense we do. Chinander stole us taking our NG out in nickel and passing situations from Leonard and his defense in Madison. Our offense could go against the Blackshirts in practice and it’s pretty much the same thing. The difference is that the Badgers are just so much better at running it so far and their offense doesn’t put them in bad spots. Wisconsin is 6th in the country with time of possession, having the ball for 58% of the game. Nebraska is 110th in the country in TOP having the ball 46% of the time. Their defense is not on the field much at all, and ours is.

Where Wisconsin will really trip you up is if you make a mistake and get zero yards or negative yards one play, you are basically screwed that series. The Badgers are 2nd in the country in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage, as opponents only convert roughly 25% of their chances. And Wisconsin is only giving up 3.6 yards/play which is good for first in the country. If Nebraska goes zero or negative yards on any play, or becomes reliant on any one player such as Martinez, Toure, etc., it will be a long, long, long day.

Here’s a good look at how well coached Wisconsin is on defense. The NG takes the LG and Center and effectively makes both of them block him. He knows that if that LG is engaged with him, that the looping player will have a free path to the QB because the LT has to take the outside rusher on the left.

You also see the down DL on the right understand that he has to keep his outside shoulder free at all times. This is because if the QB tries to escape that side, he has to force him back to where all his help is. If he tries escaping the other way, he’s dead in the water because the “looper” has a free run at him for a sack. Here’s an example of what i’m talking about, if the QB tries to escape to where it “looks open” the “looper” is standing right there to force him the other way:

Wisconsin is just so well coached, has a great scheme, and players that understand it. While I love Henrich and Reimer on our defense, here is what the Badgers are sending out against us in the middle of the field:

If that isn’t enough, their two OLBs are four star players according to Rivals in Noah Burks and Nick Herbig. And of course, just to show you how well Wisconsin is developing, here is one of their starters on the DL:


I think this tweet sums this game up pretty well:

Wisconsin and Nebraska are pretty much the same IMO, except that Wisconsins defense is much better and offensively while they aren’t great, they know who they are so they are able to do enough on that side of the ball to get W’s. Conversely, the Blackshirts keep Nebraska in every single game but our offense doesn’t know what we are so we can’t score and lose close battles time after time.

I think we can hang with them, our defense will keep us in every game we play. But I just don’t think our offense can score enough against them. We have a bye week where we have never won a game coming out of one of those, and we are doing it this time down 4 assistants. Wisconsin just has too much at stake and they rarely trip up in these situations.

24-13 bad guys. Go Big Red!

18 thoughts on “Wisconsin Preview 2021

  1. Wisconsin D looks good yes. But look at the offenses they have played. MU ranked 30, otherwise, you fall to Purdue at 59th, and 4 of the statistically worst in the country, IL, IA, Rutgers, NW. Yes, I know NUs offense isn’t great, but they have not seen an offense like ours yet. And flip it over, we have seen 4 offenses in the top 30 and we still have good defensive numbers. This will be a lot harder for WI than people think. Unless our players have packed it in for the year of course.

    1. Eh… this will be a tougher game for us than Michigan or Oklahoma was. Oklahoma hadn’t played anyone either, neither had Michigan.. They recently held Purdue to 13 points. We don’t have the firepower and our season is over, Wisconsin has everything to play for.

      1. Does this mean you’re hearing the team has kinda packed it in? That would be understandable but disappointing. The one thing this staff has done well is kept the team playing hard. I think it would be a remarkable feat to keep the guys locked in for these last two games and would really encourage me hearing into an interesting offseason.

      2. I don’t think you can definitively say they have or haven’t because when bullets fly sometimes the fighting mentality can come out. I can tell you the OL didn’t want Austin gone, but look at their results. So they may be skewed anyway. And the defense didn’t lose any coaches and they’ve been who have kept us in games anyway so even if the offense is all out of sorts we may still have a close game if their head is right.

  2. Another great article. I think recruit rankings matter, but not nearly to the degree many think. It’s insanely subjective, so putting stock into numbers of 4 and 5 star players is fools gold. Look at the hot mess of Nebraska basketball!

    But the bigger issue is that a recruit’s ranking is a snapshot of when they signed with a team. Go back four, three, two or even one year earlier and these kids were all basically 0-1 star, for the most part. They developed physically, mentally, and emotionally during high school to get to their apex rating as they went off to college. But the kids’ development continues at college and they get their new ranking (NFL draft position) at the end of their college career.

    Iowa and Wisconsin have been poster boys for taking 3 star talent and making them all-conference or better. For them to have a few more 4 star players instead of 3 star players is not likely to change much. I could be wrong, but I don’t think their formula or results will change. If we can develop our players similarly, we will be back to winning 9 games regularly.

    We need to find kids that are talented but also kids that can be developed. And I think a lot of that comes from having an identity for your team, like IA and WI.

    1. I’d agree, I don’t think the rankings matter a ton. A lineman could be good in one system and garbage in others. I think the bigger takeaway for me with it is they were beating us with players that weren’t thought of as highly as what we were getting. Now they are getting more highly regarded talents. If they develop those four stars as well as they deveoped the 2 and 3 stars we will be in a world of trouble.

  3. Hopefully the kids put it all out there this game – I would hope they are mature enough to realize that coaching is big business, with big dollars and is a results oriented thing…the results havent been there, so the result is 4 coaches were fired…if there are many kids upset about and mail it in, that would be a huge letdown obviously and would show (I think) there is still a culture problem on the team. That said, I just hope they play hard, play well, limit the mistakes and see what happens

  4. Wisconsin’s offense only scores a couple of points less that our “elite” offense which is a joke of many colors. Frost’s record is so bad overall that his road record kind of gets forgotten. There is nothing that I can see that suggests he and his mentally fragile team can handle what is waiting for them in Madison. 45-10 seems about right.

      1. Remember the heart and soul of our defense is not going to be on the field covering their best player. I think we will get to see just how much of a glue JoJo was both physically and emotionally.

  5. I see this game potentially being like Texas at the end of Callahans reign. Load the box, blitz the hell out of them and see where the chips fall. The formula is slow the run, guard their TE and score TD’s on the few possessions we are probably going to get. I don’t see it happening early, and if the offense is really pissed at the coaching change and quits, this is going to get real ugly.

    1. That game was great (specifically because one of our drivers said Texas was renovating their stadium “to hold 200,000 people”). That was pretty impressive. Just created pressure and were willing to deal with some big plays. Texas inevitably won but I liked what Cosgrove did.

  6. In the last six games, Wisconsin has averaged 50 runs to 18 passes per game. They finally found their run game again with their stud freshman, which has taken a lot of pressure off Mertz. It’s a much better offense now than it was early in the season. Early in the season, the Badgers were relying on Mertz too much, which resulted in turnovers and late game collapses (which also impacted their defensive stats). If Wisconsin had found the right ingredients on offense to start the season, they very well could be in the CFP mix. But, it’s understandable they weren’t ready to throw the 17 year old RB into the fire in September.

    Conversely, our offense has gotten worse with Martinez’s injuries. In the past three games, Martinez has completed 51.6% of his passes — 4 TDs to 5 INTs, and ran for 52 yards on 36 carries for an average of 1.4 YPC. If he’s still hobbled and/or hesitant, we are completely doomed.

    1. Ya, people just see Wisconsin’s struggle with Notre Dame and Penn State and think they are not good when in reality they found their groove. They tweaked a couple things and are now in the drivers seat to win the west.

  7. Did you really say Wisconsin and Nebraska are the same? 10 years into the Big 10 adventure we know better. 1 of these teams commits a lot of penalties, turns the ball over and struggles on special teams. The other is Wisconsin. Their offense may not be the explosive, up-tempo juggenaut like we saw in the Big 12 but they dont have negative plays and give themselves a chance with 3rd downs because its short to medium where they can call a run or pass. They have a running game that can turn red zone trips into TDs, not FGs. The D has deceptive stats because their offense and special teams make their lives easier unlike ours but its still a solid, fundamentally strong unit. If we were that similar to them then this game would decide the Wests winner. Instead it matters to 1 and only 1 team.

    1. Absolutely. Nebraska and Wisconsin lean on their defenses, it’s just Wisconsin has a better defense and better offense. Nebraska’s defense is the only reason we have the “close losses” in all of these games, not our offense.

      I think you are confusing me saying Wisconsin and Nebraska are the same as if I meant we are equal quality teams, which isn’t even close to what I was stating and was pretty clear if you continued to read past that comment.

  8. The D will show up for Chins and keep this respectable but I think Wiscy will slowly grind us into hamburger over four quarters and win going away. Didn’t think hope would have vanished with two games left in the season this year but that is where I’m at. Waiting for the OC announcement to see where this goes from here.

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