The Graham Mertz (above) era has begun, with the much-hyped quarterback getting his first career start. Mertz, a four-star recruit, has been a subject of much discussion since he committed to UW in 2017, and it’s time to see whether he can live up to the hype.
Mertz has the advantage of veteran receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, along with tight end Jake Ferguson at his disposal.
A three-man running back group will be leaned on to keep the Badgers productive on the ground, with Nakia Watson, Garrett Groshek and Isaac Guerendo tasked with that challenge. Watson, who was Jonathan Taylor’s backup last season, is a powerful runner, and will have to contend with an Illinois defensive front that allowed 4.3 rushing yards per carry and nearly 200 yards per game last season.
Illinois’ defense was stellar at forcing turnovers last year, ranking eighth in the country in takeaways per game. With a redshirt freshman at QB for the Badgers, expect Illinois’ defense to try to confuse Mertz and put him in difficult situations. Senior linebacker Jake Hansen forced seven fumbles last season, including two against UW.