A look at who is trending up and down the past week in Wisconsin sports, including the Badgers’ Braelon Allen, Jim Leonhard and Graham Mertz.
Graham Mertz, Badgers quarterback (⬇️ DOWN)
It all started with such promised and ended in abject disappointment. Mertz was the big quarterback recruit Wisconsin finally landed. There was tremendous excitement over his potential and the possibilities. In his first game as a starter in 2020 he even backed it up, completing 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Illinois. Such lofty numbers would be hard to replicate for any QB, but that was a rare beacon on light in a sea of darkness for Mertz over the next three years. Every once in a while, there was a hint of budding greatness only for those thoughts to be beaten down by inconsistent and often poor play. Mertz didn’t turn out to be Wisconsin’s savior just another false idol. Mertz’s time at Wisconsin didn’t end with a playoff appearance or bowl win but rather a second consecutive loss to rival Minnesota and his announcement of entering the transfer portal. A change of scenery maybe will do him some good – he also didn’t fit the likely profile of new head coach Luke Fickell’s QB profile. It wasn’t supposed to end this way but that’s why it’s called potential and not probability.
Braelon Allen, Badgers running back (⬆️ UP)
While Wisconsin is losing its starting quarterback, its 1,000-yard rusher is apparently staying. After rumors that Allen might headed to Michigan – due in part to Allen’s steadfast support of Jim Leonhard, who did not get the Badgers’ head coaching job – Allen put that talk to bed with a tweet. Badgers fans can sleep better now.
Jim Leonhard, Badgers defensive coordinator (😢)
A Badgers through and through, it would have been nice if Leonhard stayed at Wisconsin after losing out on the coaching gig. But that’s a tough ask for anyone. Leonhard said goodbye in a tweet but will stick around for one more game, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Classy all the way through.
Wisconsin basketball (⬆️ UP)
Once again picked to finish in the middle-to-bottom of the Big Ten, the Badgers are proving the doubters wrong. Wisconsin is 7-2 on the season and coming off big wins over rival Marquette, on the road, and against No. 13 Maryland, handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season.
Zach Tom, Packers offensive lineman (⬆️ UP)
We covered more of Tom’s season and game this past Sunday in our Snap Counts, but suffice to say the rookie held his own against Chicago with the Bears getting no hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Not bad for an emergency replacement.
Khris Middleton, Bucks forward (⬆️ UP and ⬇️ DOWN)
It’s nice to see Middleton back on the floor after a prolonged absence but he’s not quite in form. Playing in his first two games of the season this past week, Middleton averaged just 11.0 points over 26.2 minutes while shooting 31.8% from the field and 27.3% from 3. Give it time.
Bucks backups (⬆️ UP)
With several players missing games this week, AJ Green and Sandro Mamukelashivili were called upon for extended minutes in Milwaukee’s last two games – and not only produced but also helped the Bucks to a pair of wins. Green, the rookie shooting guard, had eight points, three rebounds and an assists in just under 14 minutes in Milwaukee’s win at Charlotte on Dec. 3 then a career-high 12 points in just over 10 minutes in Monday’s victory at Orlando. Mamu had a pair of six-rebound games and a combined 14 points while playing roughly 15 and 23 minutes – easily both season highs (he hadn’t reached double figures all year).