Badgers Prepare To Face Former QB In Top 20 Matchup At Soldier Field

No. 18 Wisconsin Will Face No. 12 Notre Dame

The Wisconsin Badgers will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Soldier Field
Cincinnati Bengals kick off to the Chicago Bears to start the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Chicago. Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo

It’s a busy sports week in Wisconsin.

Sheboygan County is hosting the Ryder Cup this weekend, while the Milwaukee Brewers are postseason bound, and the Green Bay Packers are playing Sunday Night Football. And just across the border, the Wisconsin Badgers will be featured in a big game of their own.

The No. 18 Badgers will face the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Saturday.

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“We’ve been pretty fortunate, obviously, with the (Milwaukee) Bucks and all that, and it’s been fun kind of following the Brewers, and, obviously, the Ryder Cup, that’s not something that just happens,” said Badgers head coach Paul Chryst. “We’re just going to try to do all we can and put in the work and effort so that we can uphold our end of it.”

The Badgers (1-1) are the home team for the matchup against the undefeated Irish at Soldier Field, home of the NFL Chicago Bears. ESPN College GameDay will be there.

“I believe, personally, that every game has big meaning to it, every game is a great opportunity,” Chryst said. “But I also know that there’s more around this game for our fans and nationally, and I think that’s why kids come here, to be part of that.”

One of the big storylines Saturday will be the quarterback matchup. Notre Dame’s Jack Coan played three seasons at Wisconsin — leading the Badgers to a Rose Bowl berth during his junior year. Coan suffered a foot injury before the start of last season, and current Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz took over as starter.

Mertz has had his ups and downs — but there’s no question he’s got talent. Meanwhile, Coan’s year got off to a rocking start. He threw for 366 yards in Notre Dame’s overtime win against Florida State, breaking the school’s record for a season opener.

It’ll be weird to face his old team, Coan said this week.

“It’s going to be a lot of my friends I’m going to be playing against, guys I still talk to today,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s just another football game and I like to think I won’t get more excited for one game than the next, but it’ll certainly be a pretty cool atmosphere.”

“We have respect for Jack and appreciate who he is as a person and player here,” Chryst said. “But it’s Wisconsin verses Notre Dame.”

The Wisconsin quarterback reaches back holding the ball before passing.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz prepares to throw a pass during the Badgers’ game against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

While many eyes will be on the two quarterbacks, the outcome won’t rest on a single player, Chryst said.

“That’s what’s awesome about football, it’s a team sport, and it’s going to take our team going up against a very good Notre Dame team,” he said.

Wisconsin struggled with mistakes in its season opener against Penn State, but beating one of the top teams in the nation would go a long way toward righting its season. The Badgers will host the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines next week for Barry Alvarez Day at Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisconsin was supposed to take on Notre Dame at Lambeau Field last season, but the game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been rescheduled for 2026.