December 8, 2022

Badgers in downward spiral after embarrassing home loss

Wisconsin Badgers Football

Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst looks on during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Illinois Saturday October 9, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

After a 2-3 start, there’s no denying the Badgers need to hit the reset button.

Illinois stormed into Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning, and delivered a 34-10 beatdown on Wisconsin. Not only was it the worst home loss of the Paul Chryst era, but it was also the first time the Fighting Illini defeated the Badgers on the road since 2002.

Now the College football world is wondering if the sky’s falling on Chryst. After all, Wisconsin lost by 31 points at Ohio State the week prior, and by three at home to Washington State in game two. Not to mention the Badgers got off to a 1-3 start in 2021.

Although Chryst righted the ship and won seven of his final eight games that season, it seems highly unlikely this time around. Veteran quarterback Graham Mertz continues to struggle. And that’s something Wisconsin fans have come all too familiar with. Mertz has thrown a jaw-dropping, five interceptions over the past four games.

The Badgers’ rushing offense is currently fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd in the FBS. Still, that type of production can’t overcome Mertz’s costly turnovers. It’s no mystery that Wisconsin’s aerial attack is a liability. And that has to improve in order to get back into the win column.

The biggest head-scratcher has been the Badgers’ defense this fall. Jim Leonhard is regarded as one of the Defensive Coordinators in the country, but his unit has allowed 86 points over the past two games. The Buckeyes had two players eclipse the century mark in rushing yards against the Badgers, and the Fighting Illini’s Chase Brown steamrolled for 129 and a score.

Wisconsin has been getting manhandled in the trenches and that’s where Big Ten games are won. This was supposed to be year that Chryst took back control of the Big Ten West. The Badgers were even ranked No. 18 in the preseason AP Poll. Instead Chryst currently has Wisconsin in last place in the West. The Badgers are the only winless team in conference play from the division.

From the outside looking in it seems like there’s a state of emergency in Madison. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Wisconsin is a proud program, that’s been winning at a high level for the past two decades. Chryst has ruled the West with an iron fist, but his grip has clearly loosened in recent years.

The bad news is the Badgers’ next two games are on the road. Wisconsin also won’t have a bye-week until after October 22. Regardless, the good news is Chryst’s squad will be battling the next two contests against teams with a combined record of 3-7.

So now it’s the time for Chryst to find leaders in his locker room. And his staff needs to take a deep look into the mirror and go back to the drawing board. Anything to get everyone back on the same page in order to avoid a complete collapse to this season.