Wisconsin QB Knocks Off Illinois Defender's Helmet on Fumble Return

In this weekend's Hot Clicks: Wisconsin's quarterback play got a major upgrade Friday night, plus a muddy mess in the Upper Peninsula and more.
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Nice Try, Sydney Brown

In losing to Oregon in last year’s Rose Bowl, Wisconsin failed to close the decade with a 103rd win, which, after the national championship, would’ve tied LSU for the sixth-most wins last decade. A win also would’ve been the Badgers’ 64th in the playoff era, tying Boise State and, hours later after the Sugar Bowl, Georgia for fifth-most since 2014.

With the exception of Boise State, whose annual playoff path is arguably impassable along with every other Group of Five team, each of the teams above Wisconsin in 2014–19 wins has at least one playoff appearance. And five others below them—Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, and Washington–have one apiece. The Badgers have eight 10-win seasons in the last 11 years, haven’t won fewer than seven games since 2001, and from 2010–12 became the first Big Ten team to win three straight conference championships in nearly two decades.

Wisconsin won 102 games last decade despite mostly mediocre or downright bad quarterback play and would’ve reached at least one playoff (2017) with marginally better quarterback play. And in their season opener on Friday night vs. Illinois, Wisconsin didn’t find marginally better quarterback play...they found historically better quarterback play from redshirt freshman Graham Mertz.

Mertz is a former four-star recruit and the No. 3 pro-style passer in the 2019 class (247Sports) who passed on offers from every team Wisconsin is trying to catch, including most notably Ohio State. With starter Jack Coan out indefinitely with a foot injury, Mertz made his first college start against Illinois and shredded the Illini, setting or tying several program records in the Badgers’ blowout win.

The numbers were incredible–20-for-21 for 248 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions—but 12 hours after the game, I’m thinking about the Illini’s only scoring play, a fumble return touchdown late in the first half.

Watch as Illinois safety Sydney Brown takes aim at Mertz during the fumble return...only to get his helmet knocked off by Wisconsin’s 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback:

U.P. Football

With all respect to the fine people of the Upper Peninsula, it would take a lot for high school football in the U.P. to grab national attention. Maybe a miracle touchdown, salacious scandal, or on-field brawl would do it. On Friday night, something else did it.

Cedarville and Rudyard, separated by about 30 miles on the eastern tip of the peninsula, just miles from the Canadian border, met on Friday night in Rudyard Township. And it looked like this:

NBA Draft

Anthony Edwards will be the first overall selection in the 2020 NBA draft, predicts SI’s Jeremy Woo in NBA Mock Draft 7.0, his first mock draft after the NBA Finals:

“It’s fair to say at this point that Edwards is generally seen as the straightforward option at No. 1. Bet big on talent, put him in a position to succeed and trust your coaching staff to iron out the kinks—chiefly, shot selection and defensive engagement. His flashes of offensive dominance, though fewer and further between than you’d like, can be tantalizing, but if he hits his ceiling on both sides of the ball, Edwards has All-Star potential.

“There are valid concerns about his ability to directly impact winning, and it may be a few years before we know the answer, making this a more complicated choice. Minnesota will have to make a judgment whether his struggles stem more from poor basketball IQ or lack of high-level experience. But this is a fairly cushy landing spot, aided by the fact Edwards wouldn’t be tasked with carrying the offense right away.”

Other NBA draft notes: The draft will be held virtually at ESPN studios on Nov. 18 … What history tells us about projected weak NBA draft classes … Why LaMelo Ball has become the draft’s biggest swing factor … 10 biggest draft steals of the last decade.

USF, BC, Kansas...

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