Just days after the kickoff of Big Ten football, one of its biggest contenders just lost their most important player. Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, along with backup Chase Wolf have tested positive for Coronavirus. As Graham Mertz tests positive for COVID, this means major changes for the Badgers. To begin with, they will both now have to sit out for 21 days as per protocols issued by the Big Ten.
Graham Mertz Tests Positive
What Does This Mean For Wisconsin?
As noted, the Big Ten’s policy on positive Covid-19 tests are that players or staff who test positive are removed from football activities for 21 days. Depending on when exactly both Mertz and Wolf tested positive, they will both be out for the next three games. For the Badgers, those games are as follows:
at #13 Michigan
Losing Mertz for those three games can certainly derail the Badger’s hopes as a Big Ten and national contender this season. The redshirt freshman put his name into the national spotlight with a five touchdown performance in the opener vs Illinois. Mertz completed all but one of his 21 attempted passes, and looked every bit as good as the hype would suggest.
Who’s Playing Quarterback?
Now, as Wisconsin faces life without its top three quarterbacks, they will look to redshirt junior Danny Vanden Boom. Vanden Boom is a Kimberly, Wisconsin native and quarterback on those standout Kimberly teams from 2014-2017. He won the Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year in his senior year. An all around athlete playing multiple sports in high school, all he did was win. His only pass as a Badger? A touchdown.
While it’s not ideal circumstances, Vanden Boom has been in the program for four years and certainly knows the offense. The Badgers will have to rely on their defense for the next couple of weeks. With that, the run game will need to improve immensely. It was mediocre vs the Illini, and will have to get up to speed quickly. It will not be easy. With Mertz, teams were going to have to respect his arm which would’ve aided in getting the run game going. Now, Nakia Watson and co will see crowded boxes on just about every down. This will take a lot of creativity by Paul Chryst to get not only his quarterback, but this run game going.
What Does This Mean For The Big Ten
When the Big Ten announced the details of the season, everyone knew they’d be walking a tight rope. With no byes or extra weeks available to offer a safety blanket for positive tests that force teams to quarantine, there was no room to maneuver. We are seeing that play out just a little over one week into the season.
On top of that, as Wisconsin is now forced to play with it fourth string quarterback, they are going to see one of their most prominent members games get impacted by the loss of their star quarterback. Secondly, this is a loss for the conference. Wisconsin looked every bit of a national contender with Graham Mertz manning the quarterback position.
In addition to these positive tests, fans will be upset with the amount of days players must sit out (21 days) before being allowed to return. However, the real concern should be that the Big Ten gave themselves no room for error. Positive tests are bound to arise. Unfortunately, the Big Ten backed itself into a corner.
The Big Ten was playing with fire with this shortened season with absolutely no wiggle room for when positive tests come up, and they just got burned.