The No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers will take the sector Saturday in opposition to the No. 12 Notre Dame Combating Irish with rather a lot to show.
Notre Dame is 3-0 on the season with some unimpressive wins in opposition to poor opponents (see: Florida State and Toledo).
Wisconsin, however, sits at 1-1 due to a Week 1 loss the place they completely outplayed No. 6 Penn State.
This contest is a prove-it sport for the Badgers. We’ve seen nice indicators on either side of the soccer, however vital errors together with red-zone turnovers, penalties and protection busts are the rationale the workforce doesn’t sit 2-0 and ranked contained in the nation’s high 10.
Sure, there’s clearly the storyline of Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan going through his former workforce for the primary time. However to me, the most important storyline coming into the competition is whether or not Graham Mertz and the Badger offense can lastly begin ending drives and placing actual factors on the board.
The 5 largest points for Wisconsin headed into Notre Dame week
For the Badgers to reply these questions and win the soccer sport, these 5 statistics might want to go the workforce’s approach:
Sep 11, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers defensive finish Matt Henningsen (92) sacks Japanese Michigan Eagles quarterback Ben Bryant (8) in the course of the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Necessary Credit score: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports activities
This stat might be related on either side of the soccer, although the main focus right here is on the Wisconsin defensive entrance vs. the Notre Dame offensive line. Notre Dame has an actual concern at offensive deal with coming into the competition, as they’ve but to discover a constant starter and left deal with and their proper deal with place hasn’t carried out a lot better. The Combating Irish allowed 4 sacks of their Week 3 win in opposition to Purdue—that even with sometimes bringing in a 3rd offensive deal with to assist with Boilermaker DE George Karlaftis. The Notre Dame offense has actual weapons with operating again Kyren Williams (extra on him in a bit), broad receiver Avery Davis and tight finish Michael Mayer. How can Wisconsin take these gamers out of the sport? Persistently discover stress in opposition to quarterback Jack Coan. The Badgers enter the week with solely three whole sacks by way of three contests. The entrance has constantly gotten stress, although, they usually’ve accomplished so with out star inside linebacker Leo Chenal. Any Wisconsin fan is aware of Coan struggles when the pocket collapses and his timing is disrupted. So why will this statistic outline the end result? As a result of Notre Dame has some points alongside the offensive line and Wisconsin has the entrance seven (Isaiah Mullens, Matt Henningsen, Keeanu Benton, Nick Herbig, Noah Burks, Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal) to make Coan’s day actually tough.
Notre Dame’s yards-per-carry
Sep 18, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Combating Irish operating again Kyren Williams (23) runs the ball on a punt return within the fourth quarter in opposition to the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium. Necessary Credit score: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports activities
Kyren Williams is among the finest backs within the nation, that half is simple. He enters the competition with 46 carries on the season, 211 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4.6 yards-per-carry. These numbers are a bit deceiving, although, as a result of a piece of these yards have come on just a few breakaway runs (I am going to have extra on Notre Dame’s huge performs later). https://twitter.com/ToddFuhrman/standing/1440426342177067013 Stopping Williams on early downs might be key for Wisconsin. Identical as when Coan was the Badgers quarterback, Notre Dame appears to push ahead on early downs and arrange their quarterback in manageable Third-and-short opportunities—which Coan is thought to excel at. The method to this sport is just like how the Badgers entered Week 1’s contest in opposition to Penn State: Wisconsin should remove Notre Dame’s early-down operating sport from the competition in the event that they need to then comprise the offense’s weapons within the second stage.
Wisconsin’s pink zone effectivity
Sep 4, 2021; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz advantages from safety by offensive lineman Michael Furtney (74) whereas making a throw in the course of the fourth quarter of their sport Saturday, September 4, 2021 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Penn State beat Wisconsin 16-10. Necessary Credit score: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports activities
I am positive you noticed this one coming. By way of three halves of soccer (eliminating the second half vs. Japanese Michigan), 9 of Wisconsin’s 18 drives reached the pink zone. Solely one of many first 5 had been transformed into touchdowns (the 1/4 in opposition to Penn State clearly deciding that contest). Wisconsin has proven an awesome capacity to maneuver the ball in between the 20s with each the bottom sport and simple completions for Mertz. Once they’ve reached the pink zone, that script has fully flipped. The Badgers, and Graham Mertz particularly, might want to reverse that course on Saturday in the event that they need to keep away from one other Week 1-type displaying (domination on all fronts however a digit within the loss column).
Graham Mertz’s interceptions (and/or fumbles)
Sep 4, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a cross in the course of the first quarter in opposition to the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium. Necessary Credit score: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports activities
Wisconsin is 0-4 in video games the place Graham Mertz throws an interception since he took over as starter final season. In case you had been questioning what that math provides as much as, they’re 5-0 when he doesn’t throw an interception. Kyle Hamilton will current a scary check for Mertz’s accuracy and decision-making, particularly within the pink zone. If Mertz can keep away from throwing him the soccer, and throwing away the sport, Wisconsin has all the things essential to win the sport. If turnovers proceed to plague the Badger quarterback (I am together with fumbles and failed pink zone handoffs on this equation), Wisconsin will proceed to have a troublesome time discovering a technique to win.
Notre Dame’s chunk performs
Sep 18, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Combating Irish broad receiver Avery Davis (3) runs Into the tip zone for a landing in entrance of Purdue Boilermakers security Chris Jefferson (17) within the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Necessary Credit score: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports activities
The ultimate stat to look at all through Saturday’s contest: Notre Dame performs of 30+ yards. Try how Notre Dame scored touchdowns in opposition to Purdue final weekend in a sport that was rather a lot tighter than the ultimate rating reveals: –Kyren Williams 39-yard cross from Jack Coan for a landing: https://twitter.com/PFF_College/standing/1439311112500039684 –Avery Davis 62-yard cross from Jack Coan for a landing: https://twitter.com/PFF_College/standing/1439331025826496526 –Kyren Williams carries 51 yards for a landing: https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/standing/1439344998949040129 That is three whole touchdowns that averaged greater than 50 yards. Identical to what we noticed in opposition to Penn State, Wisconsin’s protection has a winnable matchup up entrance and total (that is a credit score to Wisconsin’s stellar protection greater than something). How the Badgers may be beat, although, is like what we noticed in opposition to the Nittany Lions: huge performs excessive and chunk performs from the offense’s stars. If Jim Leonhard’s protection can remove performs like are seen above, his protection should not have bother placing collectively a powerful efficiency.