Paul Chryst’s Badgers return to the field after a COVID outbreak in Week 11 (Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)
- Wisconsin and Michigan square off on Saturday evening in a Big Ten battle on ABC (7:30 p.m. EST)
- Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz could make a return to action after missing time following a positive COVID-19 test
- Read below for odds, full analysis and a pick on the game
Eight games have been canceled or postponed this week due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but the virus hasn’t just created problems for the teams that can’t play.
After a two week hiatus due to flare up in infections following its season opener, Wisconsin returns to play this week against Michigan. As of November 7th, the Badgers were reported to have 30 active COVID cases in their program between players and coaches. Among those affected are starting quarterback Graham Mertz and his backup, Chase Wolf.
Wisconsin began its season with a blowout win over Illinois, and return to play against a Michigan side that has failed to win or cover in its last two games.
#13 Wisconsin vs Michigan Week 11 Odds
|Wisconsin||-4.5 (-105)||-200||O 53.5 (-112)|
|Michigan||+4.5 (-115)||+160||U 53.5 (-108)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Nov. 12
The Latest on Mertz
For a moment, there was concern about Wisconsin’s potential this season when it was announced that incumbent starter Jack Coan needed foot surgery with no timetable for a return. The redshirt freshman quelled any worry about his ability and delivered a five-touchdown performance against the Illini, where he also completed 95-percent of his passes in a 45-7 win.
No.14 Wisconsin pounds Illinois 42-7 in the Big Ten’s season opener.
QB Graham Mertz goes 20/21 with 248yds and FIVE TDs in his debut! 💪
💰WIS -20.5, Under 51.5#OnWisconsin #Badgers pic.twitter.com/4NSgzu5pho
— SportsBettingDime (@SBD) October 24, 2020
Mertz received his positive results immediately after the game, and should he pass his physical and practice Thursday, he’ll likely be available on Saturday.
The prognosis isn’t as good for Wolf, and if neither QB is cleared to play, then Danny Vanden Boom would be the next man up. Despite having a perfect name for all kinds of sports-related wordplay, Vanden Boom has only thrown one pass in his college career in 2018 for a three-yard completion.
2020 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Michigan Woes Up Front
Regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for Wisconsin, the Badgers are likely to give the Wolverines a steady dose of their ground attack. Wisconsin’s power run game was particularly effective against Illinois, and Michigan will be without starting defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who broke his leg in last week’s loss to Indiana.
Badgers running back Nakia Watson only averaged 3.3 yards per attempt against the Illini, but he is a big back that can bare the responsibility of wearing down opposing defensive fronts. After three games, Michigan is in the bottom-third of the country in slowing down a power rush attack and is one of the nation’s worst at slowing teams down in the red zone.
Jim Harbaugh, on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show tonight, calls offensive tackles Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes “questionable” for Saturday’s game vs. Wisconsin. “We’ll be see more mid-week,” he said.
— Aaron McMann (@AaronMcMann) November 10, 2020
Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh said this week that both of his starting offensive tackles are ‘questionable’ to play this weekend. Right tackle Jalen Mayfield is dealing with a high ankle sprain and missed last week’s loss, while left tackle Ryan Hayes’ ailment hasn’t been released. Michigan only had 25 yards rushing from its running backs last week against the Hoosiers, and Wisconsin’s front seven isn’t going to be any easier to deal with.
The Badgers are going to do everything they can to ensure that Mertz is the starting quarterback this weekend, and that won’t bode well for a Wolverines defense that allows just under 300 passing yards per game this season.
On the other side, Michigan quarterback Joe Milton isn’t built to single-handedly win games, and needs a functional game plan to maximize his potential on a game-by-game basis.
If Mertz plays, then Wisconsin should be just as likely to cover 4.5 points as it was the 3.5 points the line opened at. Watch to confirm that he is cleared to go this weekend and fire away if he is.
Otherwise, taking the first half under of 26.5 points is an alternative, as Wisconsin will likely go conservative and run ball control with Vanden Boom taking the snaps.
The Pick: Wisconsin -4.5 (-105)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.