The Wisconsin Badgers open the season Saturday night against Illinois State, and that means it’s time to dial in reasonable expectations for fans.
The Badgers are currently ranked 18th in the AP Poll, but despite the relatively mediocre ranking, Wisconsin is a heavy favorite to dominate the B1G West.
While it’s a non-conference opener against an FCS team, Saturday night is the first look we’re going to get at a re-tooled Wisconsin offense, a reloaded defense and hopefully a passing game that isn’t disgusting.
So, what should Wisconsin football fans expect when the Badgers take the field at 7:00 EST on FS1 in Madison?
The answer is actually pretty simple. The Redbirds were a bad FCS team in 2021, and it’s hard to imagine they’ve done enough to become competitive in 2022.
As Wisconsin fans, that should be music to all our eyes. Obviously, we need to win, but simply winning isn’t enough to consider Saturday night a success.
There are some basic metrics that will determine whether or not we can go to bed smiling and happy with what we saw.
Minimum, we need to win by 21 points, but what we should be focusing on more is what we see out of the offense. We need to average at least five yards a carry minimum to have a good night. We don’t need to rush for a ton of yards, but if we can’t rush for five yards a carry against a bad FCS team, we’re in big trouble.
Now, let’s dive into what everyone is wondering. What should we expect out of Graham Mertz and an incredibly inexperienced passing corps?
Number one, no turnovers from Mertz. That includes fumbles and obviously interceptions. There’s no excuse to be turning the ball over against a team like Illinois State.
Number two, Mertz needs to complete 65% of passes with at least one touchdown and at least 200 passing yards.
Here’s what a successful Mertz stat line will look like: 215 passing yards on 20/28 passing with a passing touchdown.
Is it sexy? No, but will it get the job done? Absolutely. Given Mertz’s past two seasons, anyone expecting huge numbers is delusional.
If he can complete 70% of his passes with no turnovers, I’ll be popping bottles of champagne.
Wisconsin wins 45-10, the running attack is unstoppable, the defense looks great outside of a couple mistakes and Graham Mertz has a stat line similar to the one mentioned above with no interceptions.
What am I getting wrong? What am I getting correct? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @dhookstead, and let’s ride at 7:00 EST Saturday night.