2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions - Sept. 11
ND QB Dayne Crist & Michigan QB Denard Robinson
ND QB Dayne Crist & Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Posted Sep 8, 2010

Miami vs. Ohio State is big, and Penn State vs. Alabama might be bigger, but the real story in the Big Ten's weekend of huge games is the possible resurgence of Michigan vs. Notre Dame as a showdown that means something. Check out Part One of the CFN Big Ten Fearless Predictions for Sept. 11.

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 2 ... Sept. 11 Games

Big Ten
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin 

- Sept 4 Fearless Predictions
- Sept 11 Fearless Predictions, Miami vs. Ohio State
- Sept 11 Fearless Predictions, Penn State vs. Alabama

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- Live and Latest Odds

CFN Big Ten Predictions: SU:10-1   ATS: 5-2-1


Michigan (1-0) at Notre Dame (1-0) Sept. 11, 3:30, NBC

Here's The Deal … Miami vs. Ohio State might be the best Big Ten game of the weekend, and Penn State's trip to Alabama might be the biggest non-conference game of the year between two mega-conferences, but make no mistake about it; Michigan vs. Notre Dame has quickly become THE game of the weekend.

It's not time to assume in any way, shape or form that this game will come within ten miles of any BCS or national title implications, but all of a sudden, it matters again. It wasn't just that the two won their opening day games; it was the way they won. Michigan's offense worked like it was supposed to when Rich Rodriguez first took over, and it exploded on a Connecticut team full of veterans and talent. Purdue isn't going to challenge for the Big Ten title, but it's a well-coached, athletic squad that was methodically beaten by the Irish. Notre Dame was steady, Michigan was spectacular, and now, after the buzz created from last week, the winner can start thinking that this might be the turnaround season expected to come over the last few years.

Michigan has a nasty habit of gagging lately against the Toledos and Appalachian States of the world, but if it can pull this off, there's no reason to not assume a 5-0 start with UMass, Bowling Green, and a trip to Indiana coming up before home showdowns against Michigan State and Iowa. On the other side, this might be a must-win for the Irish with a sneaky-nasty stretch of at Michigan State, Stanford, at Boston College, and Pitt to follow. However, getting by Michigan doesn't appear to be the walk it might have seemed before the season. The Wolverines have won three of the last four in the series, including a thrilling 38-34 nail-biter last year, so if Kelly can win, he'll take a bit step towards giving the Charlie Weis era a bigger shove out the door.

Why Michigan Might Win: Can the Notre Dame linebackers handle the running of Denard Robinson? Now the Irish coaches have a week of game film and more to go on that UConn didn't have, but will it matter? Manti Teo is a talent and the secondary has potential, but the Irish defense is going to leave plenty of holes and lots of space for Robinson and the Michigan running backs to work through. Purdue QB Robert Marve was able to get free on a 23-yard dash last week, and while he was bottled up the rest of the way, he's not Robinson when it comes to speed. With the way Robinson was able to connect with the passing game, completing 19-of-26 passes for 186 yards and a score, the Irish defensive backfield will be on its heels just enough to provide more daylight for the Michigan runners to do big things at the second level.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Irish defensive front might finally be playing up to its potential and skill. The 3-4 scheme should be a better fit for handling the spread, with the idea that more speed and athleticism in the back seven might keep the good runs from being great. But the key is holding firm up front, and the Irish defense was able to do that to Purdue last week. The key to stopping the spread is getting to it before it starts, and while there will be problems if Robinson and the boys get to the second level, the defensive front should be able to hold firm and get into the backfield to be disruptive. The Irish came up with four sacks last week and there should be more pressure on Robinson and the passing game than UConn provided. However, the Huskies have pass rushers and didn't have a whole bunch of success. Ethan Johnson came up with a really nice performance against the Boilermakers, and he'll need to have similar success this week.
What To Watch Out For: It wasn't Jimmy Clausen winging the ball over the field, and it wasn't Tony Pike picking apart Big East defenses by finding the open man time and again to crank out big plays, but Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist came up with a sharp, solid effort against Purdue completing 19-of-26 passes for 205 yards and a score. He had some first game misreads and wasn't much of a playmaker, but he didn't screw up, didn't take any unnecessary chances, and he never put his team in a bad spot. This week, though, part of the key will be to keep the chains moving with longer drives. The Irish will almost always lose the time of possession battle (Kelly's teams always do), but the less Robinson is on the field, the better. For Michigan, the running game revolved around Robinson and his 197 yards, but the passing game was spread out among seven different receivers. With Roy Roundtree out after taking a huge hit against the Huskies, Robinson will have to get even more out of Darryl Stonum (five catches for 34 yards) and Martavious Odoms (two catches for 23 yards).
What Will Happen: It'll be a fascinating contrast in styles with each playing into the other's strengths. Michigan controlled the ball for almost 37 minutes against UConn, and while the numbers might be tilted towards the Maize and Blue side this week, it can't be because the ground game is going wild. The Wolverine offensive line will win the battle up front, and while the Irish up-tempo attack will come up with a few big scores, it won't be able to take control of the game. Robinson will be held in check, but the running backs won't as Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw will combine for 200 yards to pull out a classic.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 27 … Notre Dame 24 … Line: Notre Dame -4
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 5
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Illinois State (1-0) at Northwestern (1-0) Sept. 11, 12:00, BTN

Here's The Deal … Be very, very careful, Northwestern. The Wildcats struggled a bit too much to get by Vanderbilt last week, but a 23-21 win on the road against an SEC team is still a win on the road over an SEC team. This is an NU team that's trying to rebuild and reload after losing several key parts, and it needs to pad the record over the next few weeks with Rice, Central Michigan, and Minnesota all winnable games after facing ISU. However, the Redbirds have the offense to potentially be a big problem for the soft Wildcat D. ISU is coming off a wild shootout over Central Missouri, winning 55-54 in one of the most entertaining games of the opening weekend.
Why Illinois State Might Win: Larry Smith might be a dangerous quarterback, but Vanderbilt has one of the weaker offense in the nation and it looked like the Indianapolis Colts last week against the Wildcat secondary. ISU's Matt Brown threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns last week against Central Missouri, and behind a veteran line that's solid in pass protection and should provide time, it could be bombs away.
Why Northwestern Might Win: Yeah, Illinois State came up with 322 yards through the air last week, but the secondary got obliterated allowing 547 yards and six touchdowns. Nothing worked for the pass defense, and with no pass rush to get to Dan Persa, Northwestern should be able to move the ball through the air without much of a problem. The Wildcats have an efficient enough passing game to pick apart the ISU secondary to shreds, so if the team wanted to use this game as a tune-up to get the offense clicking, it'll get its chance.
What To Watch Out For: The Northwestern secondary was going to be a soft spot going into the season with three starters needing to be replaced, and it was a major problem last week. Safety Brian Peters came up with a nice performance against the run making 11 tackles, but the key to the defense should be the play of corner Justan Vaughn, who had the unenviable task of replacing Sherrick McManis and has to soon establish himself as the team's No. 1 cover-corner. He's a veteran, but until he makes a ton of big plays he'll be picked on.
What Will Happen: This should be a dangerous game for Northwestern only because of the offensive firepower on the other side, but there haven't been too many problems over the last three years against FCS teams after losing to New Hampshire in 2006. There will be some shaky moments, but a huge day from Persa will overcome any defensive issues.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 48 … Illinois State 23 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 2
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South Dakota (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0) Sept. 11, 12 pm, BTN

Here's The Deal … It's Minnesota vs. an FCS team; it's going to be entertaining. Don't mention the word cupcake around the Gophers, they can't put away the lower level teams without a dogfight. It took everything in the bag to get by South Dakota State in a 16-13 win last season, Montana State provided a big push in a 35-23 UM win in 2008, and, of course, there was the disastrous 27-21 loss to North Dakota State in 2007. However, if South Dakota provides any sort of a problem, it's time to pack up the truck. The Coyotes got blown away by UCF last week and will struggle all year to avoid the Great West basement.
Why South Dakota Might Win: Middle Tennessee doesn't have any offensive punch without QB Dwight Dasher, but it was able to run well on the Gopher defense and did a great job against the defensive front. The Gopher pass rush was non-existent last week and there were almost no plays in the backfield. With plenty of veterans, South Dakota should be able to maintain its poise if this stays close deep into the game, and with the way the Minnesota offense has been sputtering going back to last year, this could be far tighter than expected.
Why Minnesota Might Win: UCF couldn't throw against air last year, but all of a sudden Rob Calabrese and the passing game couldn't miss last week. The Knight quarterbacks combined to complete 18-of-22 passes for 241 yards and two scores, while the balanced attack ran for 231 yards and three scores against the porous Coyote defense. Minnesota has a veteran quarterback in Adam Weber who can get streaky-hot if he gets time to work. As long as he doesn't have to bomb his way down the field, the Gopher offense should work.
What To Watch Out For: Could Duane Bennett finally provide the running game Minnesota has been missing over the last few years? The junior ran for 376 yards and six scores on just 98 carries last season, but in the opener against Middle Tennessee he was the offense running 30 times for 187 yards. He looked powerful, quick, and tough, but he didn't get a whole bunch of room to move and he had to crank out some hard yards on his own. With USC coming to town next week, he has to be fresh as a daisy, so the fewer carries he can get this week, the better.
What Will Happen: Minnesota will come up with its best offensive performance in years. Adam Weber will be crisp, the ground game will work, and the Gophers will get the rare breather it needs before focusing on the Trojans.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 45 … South Dakota 10 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 1
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Michigan State (1-0) vs. Florida Atlantic (1-0) in Detroit Sept. 11, 12:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Yippee, it's the Motor City Bowl in September. Michigan State is the "road" team even though the game is being played in Detroit, and FAU (at least the coaching staff) is familiar with the surroundings having beaten Central Michigan in the 2008 Motor City Bowl. The Owls are coming off a terrific start beating UAB in a last-second thriller on the road, and even though it's the home team for this game, this represents the second of five road trips in the first six games. They get a week off before facing North Texas at home, and then it's on the road again for three games in a row and for four of the following five games. For Michigan State, this is a second tune-up for Notre Dame after dispatching of Western Michigan last week without a problem, and the goal will be to make the home crowd happy early on to rest up and prepared for next week's showdown. Unlike the soon-to-be road weary Owls, the Spartans don't have to go far for a long time; they don't leave the state of Michigan until October 23rd.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: There's just enough offensive punch to keep up the pace. The MSU defensive front should be able to shove around the smallish, quick FAU line, but the Owl receivers should be able to come up with some big plays against a shaky MSU secondary that gave up 238 yards to the Broncos. This is a balanced FAU attack that can run well when for stretches, to MSU will have to be ready for a little bit of everything.
Why Michigan State Might Win: Hello running game. MSU should have one of the most effective passing games in the Big Ten, but last week was about establishing the ground attack barreling for close to 300 rushing yards against the aggressive WMU defensive front. While UAB got most of its rushing yards from QB David Isabelle, and MSU's quarterbacks aren't runners, the Owls gave up 345 yards last week and should be gouged this week. The Spartan offensive line should dominate.
What To Watch Out For: The more Le'Veon Bell, the better. The 6-2, 230-pound freshman is a big, tough back who led the Spartans with 141 yards on just ten carries. A perfect complement to the quick Edwin Baker, Bell is stepping up and produced with the team's top back, Larry Caper, trying to get over a broken hand. While Caper should be ready to play, it would be a huge plus if he could get another week off to heal up before facing the Irish.
What Will Happen: Consider it a win for the Owls if MSU is held to under 300 rushing yards. After keeping the passing game under wraps a bit, MSU will bomb away a bit just to work some of the kinks out before next week. FAU will put enough points on the board to make Mark Dantonio grouchy, all week before next week's showdown.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 45 … Florida Atlantic 20 … Line: MSU -28.5
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 2
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