No. 13 Wisconsin, Michigan shift focus to football
No. 13 Wisconsin visits Ann Arbor on Saturday and is embracing a chance to shift the focus from COVID-19 to their game against unranked Michigan.
The Badgers were idle the past two weeks and won the only game they have played this season, beating Illinois handily on Oct. 23. A total of 17 players and 13 staff tested positive for COVID-19. At least four Badgers’ players remained in quarantine as of Tuesday.
“We feel confident that we have a handle on the situation and are excited to play this week at Michigan. As we have done throughout, we will continue to monitor our testing results and base our decision on those results,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a release.
Michigan (1-2) hasn’t lost to Wisconsin at home since 2010. But the Wolverines are struggling and lost to the Badgers 35-14 last season.
The status of redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz, who tested positive on Oct. 24, is unclear. Head coach Paul Chryst, who tested positive on the same day, said the Badgers will measure the progress of Mertz all week.
“Graham, the way that he is timing out (is) starting that process of coming back, his tests are all done. So I think he’ll be able to have some practice. We’ll see if it’s enough practice time,” Chryst said. “You don’t know. Each guy’s a little bit different how they handle all of it. We’ll kind of see on him and a couple of other guys that were kind of in that early group of (positive tests).”
Mertz turned in a dominant debut performance to lead Wisconsin to a 45-7 win over the Fighting Illini with five touchdown passes.
Tight end Jake Ferguson was Mertz’s preferred target, as he caught a team-high seven passes for 72 yards and three touchdowns. The defense held Illinois to 218 total yards and eight first downs.
Michigan isn’t in the Top 25 poll for the first time since the end of the 2017 season.
The Wolverines have lost their past two games after defeating Minnesota on the road, and media increasingly has been pressing coach Jim Harbaugh about his chances of leaving for the NFL after this season.
“No matter what I tell you, tomorrow something else will be written by somebody else,” Harbaugh said. “I’m going to let my actions speak loudly and, hopefully, you know me, my actions have been consistent.”
Harbaugh was happier to talk about his plans for the remainder of the season. He wants to give his underclassmen more experience, so he expects to shuttle more bodies in and out of the game.
“Everybody has been here for at least three to four months, practicing football,” Harbaugh said. “Now there’s an opportunity to play – and guys are ready. We’ve talked about it before. You put them out there and let ’em play. That’s what they came here for. We recruited all of them.”
At this point, the Wolverines need all the help they can get. They were 23-point favorites against in-state rival Michigan State and failed to force a turnover in a 27-24 loss. The Spartans have committed 10 turnovers in their two other outings.
Michigan then lost to Indiana for the first time in 33 years and it wasn’t close. The Wolverines allowed 342 passing yards and once again didn’t force a turnover in the 38-21 loss.
Wolverines quarterback Joe Milton has posted solid numbers. He’s reached the 300-yard passing mark in each of the past two games.
Wisconsin has won four of the past six meetings.
–Field Level Media