Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz had a coming out party on Friday night, throwing five touchdowns against Illinois in his first collegiate start. Unfortunately, the celebration of the youngster's achievement may be short lived, as he reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. If confirmed, that diagnosis could fundamentally change Wisconsin's season.
Mertz led the Badgers to a dominant 45-7 win over Illinois in the Badgers' opener. He completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Expectations for the team and quarterback went sent sky high in America's Dairyland after that game. But if Mertz's positive coronavirus test is confirmed by a second positive test, he'll have to sit out for 21 days per Big Ten rules.
That would leave him out for matchups at Nebraska (Oct. 31), at home against Purdue (Nov. 7) and at No. 13 Michigan (Nov. 14). The No. 9 Badgers have Big Ten title game aspirations and in a shortened season every week takes on much more importance. A loss or two with Mertz on the shelf could end any hopes of reaching the title game.
Jack Coan started for the Badgers in 2019 and is still on the roster, but he's out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his right foot. So there's no obvious successor for Mertz if he winds up being out.
We'll see what happens, but this is shaping up to be terrible news for a Wisconsin team with big plans this season.