Michigan Wolverines Football vs. Wisconsin Appears To Be A Go
Wisconsin has missed its last two football games due to a COVID outbreak — one more and the Badgers wouldn't be eligible for the Big Ten championship game .
In other words, they're going to do everything they can to play, and as of now they're planning on it. Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez tweeted Monday they were looking forward to the matchup in Ann Arbor Saturday night (7:30 p.m.).
"We feel confident that we have a handle on the situation and are excited to play this week at Michigan," Alvarez said.
Head coach Paul Chryst wouldn't say if starting quarterback Graham Mertz, a star in a record-setting opener against Illinois, would play, but he did provide an encouraging update. He told reporters Monday Mertz' tests had all been completed and he was starting the process of returning, though he refused to say if Mertz would play at Michigan.
Several sources said they expect Mertz to start and play against the Wolverines. Friday would be his 21st day out following a positive COVID test, clearing him to return Saturday.
The Badgers began their regular game week preparations Monday morning and are schedule to practice each day this week. In a release, the Wisconsin administration wrote that COVID testing would continue after an outbreak sidelined Mertz and others for three weeks.
"We had no new positives on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was a great sign," Alvarez said. "That's when we started thinking Friday could be a day we could get the team together to start doing things with an eye towards having a regular practice week this week."
They were cautious over the weekend, he added, splitting players into groups and conditioning before reconvening on a regular schedule Monday.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said he wasn't worried about his team's health heading into the game, adding he'd defer to the doctors as he has since spring.
"We're assuming we're playing, up and at it in our preparations, and that's where our focus has been," Harbaugh said. "We'll consult with the medical folks and get their opinions. That means a lot more than mine. That's what we would do in this situation."
Harbaugh and his team could be missing several players Saturday, including junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. He's excited, however, to see some new faces.
"A guy like Zak Zinter really had as good a game as anybody on the offensive line making his first start," he said of his freshman right guard. "[Defensive end] Luiji [Vilain] started slow but really picked it up, had a better second half. There's excitement there.
"[Redshirt sophomore quarterback] Joe Milton is developing, the young receivers are developing ... [sophomore] Cornelius Johnson is really developing. He's gone all the way up to probably No. 2 receiver maybe right behind Ronnie Bell. [Freshman] Roman Wilson is doing some really good things."
They'll continue to mix in the veterans who are playing well with young guys who they think can help, he said, in an effort to right the ship after a 1-2 start.
• Talk about this article inside The Fort
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Listen and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, The Wolverine
• Sign up for our daily newsletter and breaking news alerts
• Like us on Facebook