It’s been a shaky start to the season for Notre Dame and now the schedule is picking up. Wisconsin already has a loss and knows the College Football Playoff is almost impossible to reach but is still a favorite in this spot. The Badgers opened as a -5.5 point favorite with an over/under of 46.5 for the game at Soldier Field.
The Fighting Irish are undefeated but nothing has come easy despite what has been a mostly favorable schedule.
They almost lost to FSU in the opener, allowed 29 points to Toledo and then the defense finally showed up in a 27-13 win against Purdue last weekend. The offense may not be elite, but if the defense shows a little more of what it did against Purdue, there is some hope, especially in this game.
Neither Has Been Great Offensively
Wisconsin is favored by more than a field goal at a neutral site which is somewhat surprising. The Badgers scored 10 points against Penn State and while they ran for 352 yards against Eastern Michigan, they still only scored 34 points.
They were held to two field goals and one of their touchdowns was an 82-yard run. The jury is still out on quarterback Graham Mertz, who averaged 5.0 yards per pass against Penn State and could be in trouble again after Notre Dame thwarted Purdue’s passing game. There’s a chance Wisconsin wins this game with Chez Mellusi and the running game, but things will likely go similar to their opening loss.
Notre Dame’s run defense has been fine, allowing 4.3 yards per carry. That’s the main reason Wisconsin will get money because there’s a chance the Irish just aren’t good defensively. The other part is that their offense may be just as bad and inconsistent as Wisconsin’s.
Revenge for Coan
Of course, it’s a revenge game for Jack Coan, who was Wisconsin’s quarterback in the 2019 season. He’s been solid in three games, averaging 8.4 yards per pass for eight touchdowns and two picks. The main problem has been the ground game, partly because of a completely new offensive line. Kyren Williams is supposedly one of the best backs in the country, but he’s on just 4.6 yards per carry for 211 yards.
It’s unlikely he’ll top that average in this game, which means Coan will be Notre Dame’s best path to victory, something Badger fans are happy to bet against.
Wisconsin’s defense remains legit and only lost to Penn State because it gave up a couple long passes. Otherwise, the Badgers have dominated their two games and this defense could easily contain the Irish to less than 20 points.
There’s a chance Notre Dame’s defense turned a corner last week and things are trending in the right direction heading into this matchup, which would be a huge benefit against Mertz. The Wisconsin defense is probably the best unit in this game, but similar to that PSU game, if Coan can make a couple plays, that may be all that the Irish need to steal a win, if not keep things close to cover.