Wisconsin Week Mic Check: Quarterback Graham Mertz Central to Badgers Upset Hopes

By Chris Lauderback on September 21, 2022 at 3:05 pm
Graham Mertz
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With the non-conference slate in the rear-view mirror, No. 3 Ohio State opens up Big Ten play against the always-physical Wisconsin Badgers Saturday night in the Shoe. 

Ahead of the league matchup, Ryan Day met with the assembled media on Tuesday to talk all things Badgers. 

Of course Job One for Ohio State is stopping Wisconsin tailback Braelon Allen but Day also noted he believes the Badgers are "more multiple" than many might realize. Much of that depends on the quarterback position and Day was complimentary of Badgers signal-caller Graham Mertz. 

I think they have very good players. graham mertz is an excellent quarterback.– Ohio State head coach Ryan Day

Mertz, a fourth-year guy, hasn't exactly been excellent if we are being honest, particularly against ranked teams. 

Since 2020, Mertz is 2-6 against ranked opponents and in one of those wins, a 2021 matchup with No. 21 Purdue, he threw the ball just eight times as the Badgers ran it 51 times for 290 yards in a 30-13 victory. 

2020 (19) NORTHWESTERN LOSS 23 41 230 56.1% 1/3 3
2020 (12) INDIANA LOSS 20 34 202 58.8% 0/1 3
2020 (16) IOWA LOSS 20 38 169 52.6% 0/1 2
2021 (19) PENN STATE LOSS 22 37 185 59.5% 0/2 2
2021 (12) NOTRE DAME LOSS 18 41 240 43.9% 1/4 1
2021 (14) MICHIGAN LOSS 8 15 115 53.3% 1/0 3
2021 (25) PURDUE WIN 5 8 52 62.5% 0/0 2
2021 (9) IOWA WIN 11 22 104 50.0% 1/0 0
TOTALS 8 GAMES 2-6 127 236 162 AVG. 53.8% 4/11 16

Across the eight games against ranked foes, Mertz completed only 53.8% of his passes with four touchdowns against 11 picks. He was also sacked 16 times. He's not had more than one touchdown pass against any ranked team since his arrival in Madison. 

The Badgers have yet to face a ranked team in 2022 and with Mertz at the controls Wisconsin slots No. 47 in the country averaging 260.3 passing yards per game but No. 2 in the land in yards per attempt (11.7). Mertz is currently 56th in pass yards per game at 232.2. 

In Wisconsin's upset loss to unranked Washington State a few weeks ago, Mertz completed just 58.1% of this throws with two touchdowns and an interception. In three total games however, his numbers look better as he's completed 71% of his tosses  with six touchdowns against two picks. 

On the other side of the ball, while improved over last season, Ohio State's pass defense hasn't exactly been dominant. The Buckeyes are giving up 195 passing yards per game on 7.0 per attempt which slots 70th in the country. That said, it sure feels like Mertz isn't likely to turn in a stellar performance through the air, if past history is any judge. 

So while the top task for Ohio State's defense on Saturday night is to stop the run, the Buckeyes can give themselves a solid margin for error in that regard provided they force Mertz into the types of mistakes he's shown a penchant for making against ranked teams.

View 25 Comments