The Washington Cougars come to Madison hoping to fly out with an upset but they’re more likely to go home with a shutout from the Badgers dominant defense. Will Braelon Allen continue to run over defenders? Can Graham show he’s capable of managing the offense without turning the ball over? We take a look in our ‘Keys To Victory’ vs Washington State Cougars
Braelon Continues To Breakout
Last week we saw Braelon Allen break away from tackles and into the endzone twice. Washington State doesn’t have nearly as much strength up front to compete with the Badgers in the trenches. Allen should find multiple lanes to step into and even if there is somebody there the 18-year-old’s impressive physicality should wear down any linebackers and secondary members that get a hand on him. If Allen can keep his yards after contact high like last week, it should really wear on this Wazzou front.
Nobody’s giving any respect to Wisconsin in any way shape or form. Allen is the type of player who could start to change people’s opinions. If he has another breakout game as he did against Illinois State, and especially if he has another 90-plus yard run, people are going to have to not only notice Allen but start to consider the Badgers a team worthy of being contenders.
Allen should also start to see more action in the passing game. Not that he needs it but expanding his game to include more receptions won’t hurt anything. Look out for Allen to make more of an impact through the passing game running outs and creating space for himself to get open upfield as Bobby Engram opens up the offense a bit more this week.
Mertz Needs To Keep Consistent
Graham Mertz had a good showing against Illinois State in the season opener. However, unlike the Redbirds Washington State is an FBS opponent. It’s going to be a little more challenging this week. A season ago, Washington State was top ten in turnover margin and their defense thrives on creating mistakes.
Washington State is a good defensvie unit, they ranked top 50 in total defense a season ago. If Mertz wants to prove that he’s the real deal, that he’s everything and more that was promised when he arrived on campus, then this is the week to start showing it. Bobby Engram gave him room to dance last week going 14 for 16 with 200 yards plus passing. Mertz could be in a unique position to help change the narrative on what Wisconsin football means and is.
Highest-graded Big Ten QBs from Week 1:— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 9, 2022
1. Tanner Morgan: 86.6
2. C.J. Stroud: 83.1
3. Graham Mertz: 81.4 pic.twitter.com/nHCLltglVd
With Engram as the architect, Mertz showed last week that he’s able to not turn the ball over or make bad decisions from behind center. This week against Washington State is about cultivating and growing the same consistency. I expect to see just as much play-action and even a look or two that will allow Mertz to test out his capability to execute completions on deep balls downfield.
Badgers Secondary Needs to be Cleaner
We’ve got Jim Leonard...That’s really it. Why are you even bothering to show up, Cougars? I think it’s certainly possible for this Badger defense to be just as special as those who’ve come before them. Last week's introduction was certainly something as not only did they shutout Illinois State but the defense scored against them. I don’t know if a defensive TD is a lock in this upcoming battle but I certainly think that the Badgers could potentially cause some mistakes. Last week, Washington State had three fumbles lost to Idaho, and one was a scoop and score for the Vandals last week.
While the Wisconsin defense will be going up against a former Badger in Nakia Watson I don’t expect him to be that much of a pest. Watson had a decent showing last week rushing for over 100 yards against Idaho. Transfer quarterback Cameron Ward and his ability to break away out of the pocket or sling the ball to receivers will be the deciding factor in how this game ends up playing out. Ward’s debut for the Cougars saw him throw for 3 TD’s and over 200 yards. We didn’t get to see much of his speed as a mobile qb last week, only raking up 12 yards, but he’s said to have good legs and an ability to extend passing plays with them. Keeping Ward’s feet in check and playing a cleaner game in the secondary will be crucial in this contest.