The Wisconsin Badgers (1-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) lost to the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (5-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon. We all know that. Let’s get down to business and see what our writers had to say after taking a little time to think about the game.
Clearly changes need to be made on offense. What is your No. 1 change to be made on offense that can be made before next week? Be as specific as possible.
Ryan: The root of the offensive trouble start with the offensive line. They need to protect the quarterback more and give the backs room to run. Rolling with the grouping that Wisconsin had on its two scoring drives against Michigan would be a good place to start, as they were able to keep the Wolverines at bay.
Another thing I thought about after the game as an idea Wisconsin could employ would be to start Braelon Allen. Let that monster of a man (6-foot-2, 240 lbs.) run the ball and beat up the front seven of Illinois and then bring in Chez Mellusi and Jalen Berger. Go with a little smash and dash.
Oh, and RUN MORE JET SWEEPS! Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor are two of the more athletic players this team has and they need the ball in their hands in order to make things happen.
Jake: OFFENSIVE LINE. After the game yesterday, Chyrst said that he is playing the guys on the offensive line that he believes gives Wisconsin the best chance to win games. I hate to break it to you Paul…you’re not winning games, and it is in large part due to the horrific play off the offensive line.
Changes need to be made. Get some new guys on the line this week. Logan Brown? Kayden Lyles? Anyone? The RBs have no room to run and Mertz has no time in the pocket to throw the ball. Just an absolute mess. Also, can we get some more creative play-calling going?
J.J.: Going to make it a clean sweep here and say make changes with the offensive line. Tinker with scheming, personnel, anything and everything works. The only major game left on the schedule is Iowa and seeing what their defense did to Maryland I have no interest in watching them run rampant in UW’s backfield. I’ll name drop Logan Brown like Jake and Tyler did but I’m fully willing to get a whole load of younger guys reps where it matters just to see if they have the chops for it.
Tyler: Logan Brown needs to get some run at left tackle. I just cannot believe he’s not on the field based on what we’ve seen from some of these older guys. How much worse can it really be? You are 1-3 and the line is getting burnt to a crisp. This is a chance to get some new guys some run and build for the future.
Also, can the center get the damn snap down? I’ll have to rewatch but it seemed like Lyles was snapping a ton of balls high which threw off the timing a lot. Lastly, more Braelon Allen and Chimere Dike. Run your youngins’.
If Graham Mertz is to miss next week with a chest injury, who do you want to see under center?
Ryan: I say give Chase Wolf a chance, but give him a short leash and have Danny Vanden Boom ready to step in.
Jake: Chase Wolf? There’s no real right answer here, as you are just drawing from a well of inexperience. Do you give Vanden Boom the ball? Probably not. True freshman Deacon Hill??? I would not hate it, just do not see it happening this early. It is going to be Wolf for the sole reason that he has been listed No. 2 on the depth chart since Mertz took over last season, but in his very few game reps, he has looked atrocious.
J.J.: We know it’s going to be Wolf, but right now Chase has four career interceptions in nineteen career passing attempts. I obviously hope that’s due to a catastrophically unlucky small sample size, but is it too early to say that I want to see some Deacon Hill?
Tyler: Speaking of run your youngin’s…. Deacon Hill? Probably not, but I’d rather watch that than Chase Wolf. He had eight pass attempts yesterday and lost a fumble on one and threw a pick on the other. Coming into yesterday it was INT’s on 25% of his throws. He’s going to be the guy but I don’t buy what he’s selling and never have. At this point, does it matter all that much? No.
The special teams have gone a bit under the radar in their terribleness (outside of Andy Vujnovich and Collin Larsh). Should Chris Haering still have a job?
Ryan: Possibly? The mistakes yesterday were things that could easily be corrected. I doubt Jack Van Dyke meant to kick the ball out of bounds on the kick off and Hunter Wohler getting hit with the punt, was a one off. That being said, these types of things have been happening for a while under Haering, so maybe...
Jake: At the end of the season, if Chris McIntosh decides to make his first huge move as AD and clean house within the football program, I have no problem with Haering getting the boot. However, there are so many other issues with this team right now and I am not sure if firing Haering solves any of them if it is an isolated move. Yesterday’s mistakes are on the players. I can promise you that Haering has never taught Van Dyke to kick the ball out of bounds. When the fluky mistakes come in bunches, they tend to look much worse and that’s what happened yesterday.
J.J.: While I wouldn’t be screaming to the heavens in anger if UW did fire him, I don’t think canning Hearing would really do all that much for this team. As Jake noted, so many of errors are individual plays that I think we can pretty confidently guess players are not being taught to do in practice.
Tyler: No. Next.
Ok, you want some depth to the answer, fine.
Special teams has been bad this year but it’s not anything new. It’s been bad for years. The mistakes are constant and it’s cost this team a lot in crucial spots. You run fringe guys or backups out there all the time and they make a mistake and we all wonder why. Belz has said it 100 times “play your best guys on special teams” and I agree with him. Special teams should not be getting this much attention every damn week season after season.
The defense is great. Who gets a game ball from you?
Ryan: Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal, who were awesome as usual. Sanborn had 13 tackles, Chenal had 12 and a QB hurry.
Jake: I’d give it to all of them if I could. I genuinely feel bad for this defense. They deserve so much better than to be 1-3. That being said, Ryan hit it on the nose. Give them to Sanborn and Chenal for another week of dominance at the linebacker position.
J.J.: Sanborn and Chenal did the best they could to keep this from being a rout. The rest of the defense didn’t let them down with their play, but oh boy did the offense.
Tyler: Sanborn and Chenal had a lot of tackles and that was cool. Wish it wasn’t so wasted again.
This is just wild, but Wisconsin still has zero (0) Big Ten West losses. Can they still win the division? Who are your favorites to go to Indy this year?
Ryan: Winning the West is going to be an uphill battle. I think Wisconsin can surpass most of the teams in the division, provided they figure things out on offense, but it will be tough to catch Iowa. Iowa has a match-up with Penn State next weekend, so if PSU can knock off Iowa and then Wisconsin can win out, they could be the top team in the West. At this moment, my favorites to play in Indy are Iowa and I hate to say it…Ohio State, just because they always do.
Jake: No, I am not sure how anybody can watch this offense in its current state and think so. I did not see it happening with Mertz and I definitely don’t see it happening with Wolf or Vanden Boom if Mertz misses an extended period of time. The offense has zero identity and unless Paul Chryst figures it out immediately, Badger fans can kiss any thought of a trip to Indy away. Iowa is the real deal.
J.J.: I mean sure, they still technically can. If the offense figures *gestures wildly* anything out I could see Wisconsin being like Northwestern last year where an elite defense and serviceable offense leads the Badgers to a home upset of the division favorite and then the team just survives until conference championship week.
But Iowa is looking more and more like a legitimate contender than last years’ Badgers ever were, and betting on the offense to become, at minimum, average, is starting to look like a long shot.
Tyler: They could, but I don’t think they will. This division is pretty bad though so who knows? I still don’t buy Iowa with the turnover luck and eventually that isn’t going to be there but they might have a big enough lead that it won’t matter. The rest of this division is pretty stinky. At this point I think we’ve got a preview of the Big Ten Title game next week when Penn State takes on Iowa. They’ve look the best thus far.