Gameday Grades: Wisconsin vs. Michigan

Author: Sam Gemini

MADISON – After two canceled games due to COVID-19, Paul Chryst and Wisconsin entered the Big House coming off a three-week respite. The Badgers proceeded to run Michigan out of the building in a 49-11 win, answering all questions about whether they would be rusty. Let’s break it down and grade each aspect of the game for Wisconsin.

Offense: A

The offense did its job well; scoring forty-nine points in a football game is obviously a good thing. Wisconsin was outstanding on the ground with 341 yards rushing, freshman running back Jalen Berger accounting for eighty-seven of those yards. The Badgers shredded the Wolverine defense with a highly balanced attack of jet sweeps and runs to the outside. Four different running backs ran for over sixty yards. Young quarterback Graham Mertz did come down to Earth a bit, completing twelve of twenty-two passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. But at the end of the day, he didn’t turn it over. When things are going well for Paul Chryst’s Badgers, the quarterback doesn’t have to do much. This was certainly the case on Saturday, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Defense: A-

The Badgers were very good defensively against an average Michigan offense, but they didn’t do anything spectacular, which is why they get an A-. The two interceptions were born more out of sheer stupidity from quarterback Joe Milton than great plays on defense. Michigan continued to exhibit utter incompetence, being totally unable to move the ball for most of the first half. Wisconsin surrendered only 219 total yards (forty-seven rushing, fifteen of which were from Milton) and ten first downs. A lot of credit certainly must go to Wisconsin, but Michigan’s mishaps lead me to conclude that the Badger defense was very good, but not great.

Special Teams: B+

Special teams did very little for Wisconsin because they really weren’t asked to do much. As he should, Collin Larsh converted all seven extra points, and there were no field-goal tries or huge returns on punts or kick-offs. However, punter Andy Vujnovich did deliver a couple of nice boots, including one that pinned Michigan on their own one-yard line in the third quarter. The most important task on special teams is to not blow the game, and with no turnovers, significant penalties, or missed kicks, the Badgers accomplished that task.

Coaching: A+

This was an outstanding coaching job from Paul Chryst. This game had all sorts of question marks surrounding it. Would the Badgers be ready to play after three weeks off? How would Mertz look after being sidelined for so long? With all of these distractions and potential pitfalls, Chryst had his troops locked in from the first snap Saturday night. Not only that, he completely out-schemed Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, beautifully executing an offensive game plan that exploited the glaring weaknesses of the Wolverine defense. Another smart, efficient game from Paul Chryst.

Overall: A

In total, there wasn’t much to complain about from Wisconsin this weekend. They marched into Michigan Stadium at primetime and laid a beating on the biggest brand in college football. To be fair, this is an extraordinarily bad Michigan team, but good teams take care of business and don’t play down to their opponent’s level. The Badgers controlled possession for over forty minutes of game time and never gave Michigan life. It is a promising sign with the fate of the season looming against the Wildcats in the coming weekend.