2010 Big Ten Picks - Sep. 18, Part 2 Az-Iowa
Wisconsin RB John Clay
Wisconsin RB John Clay
Posted Sep 15, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten game, Sept. 18, Part 2

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 18, Part 2

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

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CFN Big Ten Predictions: SU:19-2   ATS: 9-4-1

- Week 3 Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Part One

Arizona State (2-0) at Wisconsin (2-0) Sept. 18, 3:30 ET, ABC

Here's The Deal … While Ohio State and Michigan have dominated Big Ten headlines in the first half of September, Wisconsin has quietly taken care of business against lesser competition. The Badgers' first true test doesn't come until the Oct. 2 visit to East Lansing, meaning they need to make the most out of a Pac-10 visitor after a sluggish win over San Jose State. Austin Peay is waiting in the on-deck circle, which will be little more than a dress rehearsal for the Michigan State game, so this is the week to for the very talented, very promising team to show what it can do against a decent team. Arizona State is 2-0, but that's a very, very soft 2-0. It's impossible to read the tea leaves on a Sun Devil team that opened with easy wins over Portland State and Northern Arizona, and now has to show it can produce against a team with a pulse. With a road trip to the nation's No. 11 team, Dennis Erickson has a chance to buck conventional wisdom and take a big step toward reaching .500 for the first time in three years.
Why Arizona State Might Win: The Badger offense didn't look particularly sharp in the San Jose State game and had trouble closing. Arizona State excels at stopping the run, crowding the box with tackles Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola and LB Vontaze Burfict, and it's not going to wilt against the brutish Badger offensive front. Although they may not get a consistent push, the ASU front has enough size and strength to hold up and prevent RB John Clay from getting into a lather. Offensively, it took a while, but the Devils have found their quarterback, former Michigan Wolverine Steven Threet, who has started out the year hot with 630 yards and five touchdown passes.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: The Badgers' biggest advantage will be in the trenches, where most of their games are won. The offensive line is among the best in the country, clearing paths for Clay and providing time for QB Scott Tolzien, and while ASU's defensive front is strong and good, it's not nearly as good as Wisconsin's front five. Wisconsin is more balanced than it might seem, and the offense is about to show it. The D-line, particularly DE J.J. Watt, rates a considerable edge over a Sun Devil interior that's tattered and no better than average. Without the comfort of a reliable running game, Threet will be stationary target for the Wisconsin pass rush. Without some degree of balance, you're not going to beat a ranked team on the road.
What To Watch Out For: The Wisconsin linebacker corps is beginning to come together. A week ago, Mike Taylor made his long-awaited return from an ACL tear suffered last October. This Saturday, the Badgers are hoping to regain the services of Chris Borland, who sat out Week 2 to rest a shoulder injury. By the time the Big Ten schedule kicks off in a couple of weeks, the defense is hoping to have both sophomores healthy and raring to recapture last year's form, but for now, the linebackers should be able to roam free with the defensive front dominating the ASU offensive line.
What Will Happen: Arizona State isn't equipped to win this type of game, one that's going to be physical and dominated at the point of contact. Wisconsin will own the line of scrimmage, paving the way for 100 yards rushing and two scores from Clay, while the D will keep the heat on Threet all afternoon. Having gotten the message from the staff that they need to execute better, the Badgers will elevate their level of play.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 31 … Arizona State 13 … Line: Wisconsin -14.5
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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USC (2-0) at Minnesota (1-1) Sept. 18, 3:30 ET, USC

Here's The Deal … With a new staff and new rules of engagement, USC is feeling its way through the process in September. It doesn't feel at all familiar to a program that had grown accustomed to being the big kid on the block for almost a decade. One week after getting dressed down on defense by Hawaii, the Trojans were nearly picked off at home by Virginia, a rebuilding program with no business being in the game for 60 minutes. Even at 2-0, it's clear that Troy is going to wildly inconsistent and unpredictable throughout the 2010 campaign. Minnesota dreams of having USC's problems. The Golden Gophers are reeling following a devastating 41-38 home loss to South Dakota, creating more distractions regarding Tim Brewster's future with the school. With an unforgiving schedule ahead, it's going to take at least a couple of upsets for this program to have a chance of playing a bonus game in December.
Why USC Might Win: A visit to TCF Bank Stadium will be an ideal remedy for a Trojan team searching for the offensive spark it had in the opener. Minnesota was trampled for six touchdowns by South Dakota, which doesn't have nearly the weapons as USC. With just one sack in two games, the Gophers are no threat to QB Matt Barkley, who'll have all day to spot Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods. On the ground, the Trojans will bludgeon their hosts with a mix of Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford. Especially on a fast track, USC's edge in speed at the skill positions is going to be evident whenever it has the ball.
Why Minnesota Might Win: Which Trojan defense makes the trip, the one that gave up 588 yards to Hawaii or the one that quieted Virginia? The Gophers are banking on the former. Just two weeks ago, USC was blatantly vulnerable through the air, looking young and inexperienced in the secondary. Veteran QB Adam Weber has enough playmakers surrounding him to capitalize on Troy's inconsistency. RB Duane Bennett has gone for more than 100 yards in both games, and receivers MarQueis Gray, Troy Stoudermire, and Da'Jon McKnight have each caught a touchdown pass.
What To Watch Out For: USC did a much better job against the pass in Week 2, limiting big connections and playing the ball more aggressively. It'll have to continue if to avoid the landmine in Minnesota and survive the Pac-10 schedule. FS T.J. McDonald is one of the young defensive backs beginning to make his presence felt, collecting a team-high 14 tackles and his first career pick in the Virginia game.
What Will Happen: Which USC shows up? If the Trojans are motivated and focused, the threat of an upset could be gone by the third quarter. If not, all bets are off, especially on the road. On raw talent alone, they're capable of outclassing Minnesota, riding three plays of at least 50 yards to a rather curious 3-0 start.
CFN Prediction: USC 35 … Minnesota 20 … Line: USC -13
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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Indiana (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-2) Sept. 18, 5:00, BTN

Here's The Deal … On a 22-game losing streak, Western Kentucky is looking to pull off a near-miracle needing to get by a rested Indiana team that's more dangerous than it might appear. After blowing away Towson to open up the season, the Hoosiers aren't going to play in 16 days allowing time for some key players to heal up in time for this week's tune-up and next week's layup against Akron before dealing with Michigan. Since losing to IU in the 2008 opener, WKU has won just two of its last 25 games and has more problems coming up next going to South Florida before starting out the Sun Belt season against FIU. This might not be a competitive battle, but it's important for each team to take a positive step forward and keep improving.
Why Indiana Might Win: WKU hasn't played defense over the first two weeks. Nebraska and Kentucky combined for 112 points over the first two game and the Hilltoppers have been ripped up for 509 yards per game. The Hoosiers can't be put in the Rose Bowl just because they obliterated Towson, but this is a strong passing team that gets back its top target, Tandon Doss, and should be able to come up with enough big plays right away to get up early and stay there. The Hilltoppers don't have the firepower to keep up in any sort of shootout.
Why WKU Might Win: The IU run defense is going to be a problem all season long, and the Towson game wasn't an aberration. TU QB Chris Hart ran for 123 yards leading the way for the team's 227 yards on the ground, and WKU's Bobby Rainey should crank out another 100-yard day. The talented junior back ran for 184 yards against Kentucky and 155 yards against Nebraska, and IU's defense is worse than those two. Rainey has rumbled for 100 yards or more in four of his last five games, and he should be a mortal lock to continue his streak.
What To Watch Out For: WKU has been a disaster against the run, and that means Darius Willis needs to come up with a huge day. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez tore off 127 yards and three scores, and Kentucky RB Derrick Locke ran for 102 yards last week. Willis is an ultra-talented back who has the potential to carry the IU offense, and he showed off a little of his potential against Towson running for 102 yards and two scores on 14 carries against Towson. Coming off a 607-yard, six touchdown season, and after finishing the year with 142 yards against Purdue, he could be an X factor in the Big Ten race and needs to show why this week.
What Will Happen: Rainey will tear off 150 yards, but it's not going to be enough. WKU doesn't have anything else going on its offense and there are too many other problems to come up with an upset. IU will explode early and will coast the rest of the way.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 48 … Western Kentucky 23 … Line: Indiana -12
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 1.5
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Northwestern (2-0) at Rice (1-1) Sept. 18, 7:00 ET

Here's The Deal … Two of the FBS' most acclaimed academic institutions meet for the sixth time, looking to accentuate the athlete portion of student-athlete. Northwestern is off to a perfect start, but hasn't really been challenged or been particularly sharp in wins over Vanderbilt and Illinois State. The Wildcats have a couple more winnable non-conference games before popping the lid on the Big Ten schedule with an Oct. 2 trip to Minnesota. Rice appears to have improved on last year's disastrous campaign, playing well versus Texas and narrowly defeating North Texas on the road. That 32-31 win over the Mean Green was pivotal for an Owl squad that's short on confidence and needs to seize every winnable game it can get this fall.
Why Northwestern Might Win: When Rice is on defense, it often looks as if it's playing one man down. It's a trend that the staff has been unable to shake for many years. The Wildcats are aiming to take advantage after picking some momentum at the expense of Illinois State a week ago. QB Dan Persa has been the early catalyst, seamlessly moving into the lineup and leading the country in passing efficiency. He's a spiffy 38-of-44 for 462 yards, five touchdowns and no picks, and leads the team with 95 yards and a score on the ground. When he gets the offense near the end zone, he'll be looking for No. 9, Drake Dunsmore, who's turned three of his seven catches into scores.
Why Rice Might Win: If Northwestern starts moving the ball, the Owls are convinced they can keep pace. More efficient than dynamic, they've made the most of their trips into the red zone, scoring 49 points in the first two games. QB Nick Fanuzzi provided the spark in last week's win, and has won back the job that he held throughout most of 2009. He'll stretch the Wildcat defense with his strong arm, getting the ball in the hands of playmakers Tyler Smith, Sam McGuffie, and Luke Willson. Against Vandy, Northwestern was more pliable than Pat Fitzgerald would like, giving up 432 yards to a feeble attack.
What To Watch Out For: NFL scouts will paying special attention to Northwestern LB Quentin Davie, who they believe is going to be a terrific pro player. He has ideal size, moves well laterally, and has all of the intangibles that most Wildcats possess. A better run defender, he'll get a chance to exercise his skills as a pass defender versus pass-first Rice.
What Will Happen: Better athletes and better depth will help push Northwestern to a 3-0 start. Persa will again provide the spark on offense, distributing the ball and making plays with his arm and his feet. At some point, he's going to need more help from the running game, but it won't catch up to the Wildcats this weekend.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 31 … Rice 21 … Line: Northwestern -6.5
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 2.5
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Iowa (2-0) at Arizona (2-0) Sept. 18, 10:30 ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Long-term, Iowa and Arizona are dreaming of a spot in the Rose Bowl. Today, they simply want to get to 3-0 and take the already strong start of the season to a whole other level. In one of the marquee match ups of Week 3, the Hawkeyes and Wildcats meet with plenty at stake from a national image perspective. Arizona has been almost flawless in its two victories, but what exactly can come from pounding Toledo and The Citadel by a combined score of 93-8? No one outside of Tucson is buzzing about Arizona football, but that's sure to change if it can beat back a top 10 opponent. Iowa has been every bit as clean in its two wins, dismissing Eastern Illinois and Iowa State by a combined score of 72-14. Pushed to the back page in the Big Ten by Ohio State and Michigan, a nasty non-conference road trip affords them a chance to steal some thunder and inch a little higher in the polls.
Why Iowa Might Win: The Hawkeyes have very few flaws as with everything working at the right time. They can run the ball with Adam Robinson, throw it with veteran Ricky Stanzi, and play air-tight defense as well as anyone in the country. Iowa gets after team at the point of contact, controlling the line of scrimmage with Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug, and the front four should win the battle with the Wildcat offensive front. The safeties, Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, tackle like linebackers and defend the pass like corners, and they should be able to come up with the big plays needed against the Arizona passing game.
Why Arizona Might Win: Entering the season, Iowa's biggest concern was a rebuilt offensive line that has yet to face a serious challenge. That changes this weekend. In Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, the Wildcats harbor a relentless bookend that never takes a play off and is capable of flushing Stanzi from the pocket. With CB Trevin Wade cutting off half the field for the quarterback, it's going to be a frustrating night for the Hawkeye passing game. On offense, the ‘Cats are clicking and have enough speed to challenge Iowa on the perimeter of the field. Nick Foles has been sharp as the triggerman and a healthy Nic Grigsby has been a boon to the running game. The Hawkeye corners are going to have their hands full with WR Juron Criner, who has already caught 12 balls for 236 yards and a touchdown.
What To Watch Out For: Rebuilt in the offseason, the Arizona linebackers have exceeded expectations so far, but that was against inferior competition. If the Wildcats are going to slow down Robinson and cut off the intermediate stuff for Stanzi, the group will have to elevate its play this weekend after two dress rehearsals. If Paul Vassallo, Jake Fischer, Derek Earls are unable to secure the middle of the field, it'll be a long and frustrating night for the home team defense.
What Will Happen: This is one of those signature moments for Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, who'll be squaring off against his alma mater and former employer. Fueled by the local crowd, and helped by a start time that begins at 9:30 Iowa time, his Wildcats will be up to this challenge showing surprising speed and tenacity on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a four-quarter battle that Arizona survives on the strength of Foles' passing and a key defensive stop late.
CFN Prediction: Arizona 27 … Iowa 23 … Line: Iowa -2
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 4.5
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- Week 3 Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Part One