College Football Game of the Week: No. 18 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Notre Dame

posted September 23, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

As one of two ranked matchups in Week 4 of the college football season, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers face off against the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Soldier Field in Chicago as part of the Shamrock Series.

Both teams showed vulnerability in Week 1 but have gotten back to their aggressive styles of play to show the world they are not out of the conversation for championship contention. For both teams, this game is a must-win to keep their playoff dreams alive.

Starting with Wisconsin, its aspirations for a College Football Playoff spot, let alone a trip to the Big Ten Championship, are in jeopardy after suffering a brutal loss to then-No. 19 Penn State in Camp Randall Stadium. Since that loss, the Badgers bounced back with a 34-7 win over Eastern Michigan and took the weekend off during Week 3.

Under center for Paul Chryst’s team is sophomore Graham Mertz, who posts 326 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. As a quarterback who was highly touted to be the guy to lead Wisconsin to the playoff, the numbers and his performance showed otherwise.

During the game against Penn State, Mertz and running back Chez Mellusi struggled to get clean handoffs, which eventually led to turnovers, especially inside the red zone. Even though the Badgers held the ball for 43 minutes, Mertz’s mistakes aided in the upset.

The offense currently averages 22 points per game while gaining 441.5 yards per game. Its main source of offense comes from the “ground-and-pound” method of controlling the clock by utilizing the run game, which currently produced all five of its touchdowns.

However, the defense is standing strong by only allowing opponents to try and beat them through the air. Out of 194.5 yards allowed per game, only 33 yards of that average total comes from the run game.

As for the opposition, Notre Dame started out struggling as Florida State and Toledo kept their respective games close until the final drive. This past week, however, the Fighting Irish beat the Purdue Boilermakers at home 27-13.

As for its offense, it starts with Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan at quarterback looking for revenge against his former team. He currently is having a renaissance year in South Bend with 828 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions to his name, leading the Irish to a 3-0 record.

His weapons include one of the top tight ends in the country in Michael Mayer, who accounts for 206 yards and three out of nine touchdowns Notre Dame has scored in the passing game over three weeks.

Alongside Mayer is running back Kyren Williams, with 211 yards on the ground, 155 yards on 11 receptions for four total touchdowns, providing a one-two punch on offense.

The defense is as simple as one player — safety Kyle Hamilton. With three interceptions, 21 tackles and two pass deflections, Hamilton is flying on the field and up defensive awards lists as the weeks carry on.

The other 10 people on defense may be a problem. Through three games this season, they have allowed opposing offenses to gain 381 yards per game, with 232.7 yards coming through the air and 148.3 yards on the ground.

Looking ahead to this matchup, both teams seem to be getting back on track to try and sneak their way into a playoff spot in what some people may call a “renaissance year” for the sport.
Both teams seem to have their strengths and weaknesses in certain parts of their schemes.
The Badgers run game, which posts 266 yards per game, goes against a defense who gives up big yardage on the ground, which will give the game to Wisconsin, pending any miscues by Mertz. Wisconsin walks out of Chicago with a ranked win under its belt.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Notre Dame 17

 

Jonathan Draeger is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jrd6052@psu.edu.