Videos by OutKick
Is this the year Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz finally lives up to his potential?
With Wisconsin’s first game of the season fewer than 50 days away, this is the question fans who love the red and white have been asking ever since 2020.
As the biggest Wisconsin fan you’ll ever meet, I couldn’t have been more excited for him to get under center, and he set the college football world on fire when he threw for five touchdowns against Illinois in his first start.
After that, it pretty much all went downhill for the former highly-touted recruit.
In a 2021 loss to Notre Dame, Mertz looked about as bad as possible for a starting quarterback in the Big Ten when he threw four interceptions, including two pick sixes.
The man once viewed as the key person responsible for elevating the program turned into public enemy number one in the state of Wisconsin.
I know because at one point in time, I was leading the charge to bench him.
Here’s the thing about Graham Mertz that is so unbelievably frustrating – as an incredibly biased Wisconsin fan – you can tell he has all the goods to be a star.
He’s big, strong, can make any throw on the field you need him to and he’s shown great flashes, most notably in his starting debut two years ago.
If he was a straight up bum, I’d just move and accept that we’re going to be good but never great with him. It’ll be the Joel Stave era all over again.
However, if Mertz takes a legit step forward in his career, there’s really no telling how good this Wisconsin team can be.
Much like taxes and death, you can always count on Wisconsin to have a solid defense that exploits mistakes and to have a running game that dominates. With Braelon Allen leading the way and Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo providing support, there’s no question our running game will be elite and I never doubt Jim Leonhard’s ability to get the defense rolling.
It all comes down to quarterback play for whether or not Wisconsin is going to be viewed as a team capable of winning the Big Ten or if it’s just another season where fans have to be content competing for the Big Ten West title and a good bowl game.
Again, as a fanatic of the team, I’m sick and tired of settling for the latter option. I’m sick and tired of 9-3 and 10-2 regular seasons where we feel like we should have done much better.
At the end of the day, that all comes down to Mertz. If he plays like he has these past two seasons, we’re probably no better than a 9-3 team. If he proves he’s the man that had Alabama and every other elite team coming for him, we can go 11-1 in the regular season, and all bets are off from there.
So, what’s it going to be? Is Graham Mertz going to take that next step or are Wisconsin fans going to have to swallow an 8-4 or 9-3 season and prepare to revolt against our QB room?
Call me a foolish optimist, but I truly think Paul Chryst will finally get Mertz rolling. If not, we’re fans are going to want to have a very different conversation and it won’t be a fun one!