Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan will go up against his former program when the No. 12 Fighting Irish square off against No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon in Chicago.
Coan is in his first season as a graduate transfer at Notre Dame (3-0). He came from Wisconsin, where he went 12-6 as a starter and earned the admiration of coaches and teammates alike.
This weekend, however, Coan wants to deal a setback to the Badgers (1-1).
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” Coan said. “It’s going to be a lot of my friends I’m going to be playing against, guys I still talk to today. But at the end of the day, it’s just another football game, and I like to think I won’t get more excited for one game than the next.”
A neutral-site venue, Soldier Field, should feature a mixed-allegiance crowd. The campuses for Notre Dame and Wisconsin are each within a couple hours of Chicago, and the city boasts large alumni bases from both institutions.
Fighting Irish fans are feeling better after Notre Dame pulled away for a 27-13 win over Purdue one week ago. That followed a pair of nail-biting victories for the Fighting Irish, which held on for a 41-38 overtime win over Florida State and a 32-29 win over Toledo in its first two contests.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is coming off a dominant 34-7 win over Eastern Michigan. That followed a 16-10 loss against then-No. 19 Penn State in the Badgers’ season opener.
This is the first meeting between Notre Dame and Wisconsin since Sept. 26, 1964. That marked Ara Parseghian’s first game as Fighting Irish head coach, and his team won 31-7.
More than a few head coaches have come and gone since then, and now Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly is on the precipice of making history. He needs one more win to pass Knute Rockne for sole possession of first place with 106 coaching victories with the program.
It won’t be easy against Wisconsin, which boasts strength on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Badgers rely on a dominant rushing attack that is supplemented by quarterback Graham Mertz, who has completed two-thirds of his passes this season but continues to search for his first passing touchdown.
Badgers running backs Chez Mellusi (265 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Isaac Guerendo (148 rushing yards, one TD) have led the team’s ground attack.
Notre Dame has reaped early benefits from Coan, who has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 828 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three games. Kyren Williams has been a difference-maker on the ground with 211 rushing yards and two scores.
The Badgers could key in on Williams this weekend. Wisconsin has allowed only 33 rushing yards per game, which is the best mark in FBS so far this season.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst praised Coan but said he was focused on his team this week.
“Obviously, we have respect for Jack and appreciate who he is as a person and player here,” Chryst said. “But it’s Wisconsin versus Notre Dame.”
–Field Level Media