2010 Big Ten Fearless Picks - Sep. 25, Part 2
Indiana QB Ben Chappell
Indiana QB Ben Chappell
Posted Sep 23, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten game, Sept. 25, Part 2

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 4 ... Sept. 25, Part 2

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CFN Big Ten Predictions: SU:31-2   ATS: 12-15-1

- Sept. 25 (CMU-Northwestern) 

Eastern Michigan (0-3) at Ohio State (3-0) Sept. 25, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … It's leg stretching time. Ohio State has been nothing short of national title-worthy over the first few weeks, dominating the meek with blowout wins over Marshall and Ohio by a combined score of 88-14, while picking off Miami in a strong non-conference win. With Big Ten lightweights to follow, going to Illinois next week and with Indiana to follow, the Buckeyes have to use the time to sharpen up several problem areas that could be the difference between 12-0 and playing in Glendale on January 10 and 11-1 and playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day. The special teams need work, Terrelle Pryor has to be better at pushing the ball down the field, and the pass rush has to improve. Eastern Michigan shouldn't provide anything more than a light scrimmage after getting obliterated by Central Michigan 52-14. The Eagles are on a 15-game losing streak and have yet to bring Ron English his first victory, and it's not going to happen this week without an epic act from the gods. This starts a tough run of four road games in the next five, and five in the next seven, with next week's home date against Ohio one of the few real chances at a victory.
Why Eastern Michigan Might Win: For all of EMU's problems, the offensive line hasn't been bad. The pass protection has been solid and the running game has had its moments, helped by the mobility of QB Alex Gillett. No. 2 quarterback Devontae Payne has seen plenty of time and adds a bit more flash to the mix, and while all the Eagles will have a hard time getting the ground game going, they should have time to throw against a Buckeye defense that has generated a mere three sacks so far.
Why Ohio State Might Win: If you've been waiting to see Ohio State run for 300 yards, this is your week. The Buckeyes get plenty of rushing production from Terrelle Pryor, who leads the team so far, but the running backs should go wild on an EMU run defense that hasn't even been close so far. Army's run-only attack ripped off 390 yards and Central Michigan tore off 269 rushing yards, when it wasn't busy bombing away with the solid passing effort, and this week, OSU might not throw a deep ball after the first 15 minutes with the ground game certain to tear off yards in chunks, but …
What To Watch Out For: … Pryor has to show he can make things happen on third downs. OSU can afford to take some chances and make some mistakes in this game in order to get some live work in to make the passing game better. When Pryor is on the move, he's one of college football's most dangerous playmakers and best all-around quarterbacks. When it's 3rd-and-7 and he has to drop back and complete a pass, the system breaks down. Ohio State is converting a mere 34% of its third down chances; an inexcusable number for a team with this talent. Pryor can't move the chains in any sort of a conventional way, but he and the offense must use this free space of a game to push it a bit on the midrange throws. The deep ball will always be there, but Pryor needs to prove that he can consistently connect when he has to drop back and fire in rhythm.
What Will Happen: Eastern Michigan might come up with a few scores, but this won't be a game. OSU will go through the motions, and then the Eagle mistakes will come and the run will be on. The Buckeyes will run wild in a nice, easy layup.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 49 … Eastern Michigan 6 … 5Dimes.com Line: Ohio State -44.5
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 2
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Akron (0-3) at Indiana (2-0) Sept. 25, 7:00, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal … Indiana might have the easiest September schedule of all-time. After getting by Towson in a 51-17 nailbiter, the Hoosiers managed to dispatch of a Western Kentucky team that hasn't won a game since Bush was in office. And now comes a third straight layup against an Akron team that's making a strong bid to be the worst team in college football. The Zips have been a disaster so far under new head coach Rob Ianello, losing in double overtime to Gardner-Webb (who rode the momentum of a win over an FBS team all the way to a 14-pound loss to Western Carolina) and scoring just 13 total points in blowout losses to Syracuse and Kentucky. The offense hasn't worked the defense hasn't stopped anyone, and the special teams have been awful. Other than that, September has been great so far for the Zips. The program has lost 15 of its last 18 games and dropped a 38-21 battle to IU last year.
Why Akron Might Win: Part of IU's success so far has come from not making mistakes. The Hoosiers have only lost one fumble in the first two games while taking the ball away four times, but Akron, for all its faults, has been stingy with just two turnovers in the first three outings. Part of Akron's biggest problem has been pass protection with Patrick Nicely getting a nanosecond to survey the field and make plays. Indiana doesn't have the pass rush to take advantage of the struggling Zip offensive front, and for the first time all year, Nicely might be able to find a second receiver.
Why Indiana Might Win: It's not like Nicely and the passing game lit up Gardner-Webb, cranking out just 165 yards and a touchdown, but that was Peyton Manning-like compared to the games against FBS schools. Against Syracuse and Kentucky, Akron so far has completed 18-of-59 passes (31%) for 216 yards with a touchdown. The IU secondary has done a nice job so far and it isn't likely to give up many big plays, if any, and Akron has no ability whatsoever to keep up in a shootout. The Hoosier passing game should be able to do whatever it wants to.
What To Watch Out For: With star target Tandon Doss a bit banged up with a pulled stomach muscle, Damarlo Belcher has stepped up his game. A steady and consistent No. 2 target last year, the 6-5, 215-pound junior has dominated with 17 catches for 227 yards and two scores in the first two games. He caught ten balls against Western Kentucky, with Doss back in the mix, and he'll be dominant at times in single coverage. He's a matchup nightmare. For Akron, for all of its problems, linebackers Mike Thomas and Brian Wagner are doing what they can to save the ship. Thomas has been a machine so far with a team-leading 31 tackles, while Wagner, an all-star, made 12 tackles against Syracuse with a pick. They need to keep Darius Willis and the IU running game under wraps.
What Will Happen: Akron just isn't playing all that well. The IU passing game is too good and the offense too sharp for the Zips to keep up. IU will get a special teams touchdown to add insult to injury.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 45 … Akron 20 … 5Dimes.com Line: Indiana -22
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 1.5
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Northern Illinois (1-2) at Minnesota (1-2) Sept. 25, 8:30, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal … Medical issues are overshadowing the desperate importance of this game for both teams. NIU head coach Jerry Kill suffered complications following gall bladder surgery, and while everything is fine, it has been a scary time considering he underwent surgery for kidney cancer five years ago. Meanwhile, Minnesota WR Conner Cosgrove, son of defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, was diagnosed with leukemia and started treatment right away. On the field, the Gophers desperately need something positive after missing several chances to pull off the upset against USC and with the ugly loss to South Dakota still fresh. With Big Ten play starting next week, and Tim Brewster and the coaching staff in double-secret probation, a loss to a MAC school at home wouldn't exactly be a plus. NIU isn't supposed to be just another MAC team considering it was among the preseason favorites to win the title. It came up with its Dakota win, beating North Dakota in a struggle, but it lost two tight games to Iowa State and Illinois. Those were winnable games for the Huskies, and they didn't get it done. With a layup against Akron next week to start conference play, a win over the Gophers would be a nice step to prove that things are headed in the right direction. These two played one of the most exciting games of the 2008 season with the Gophers scoring on fourth and goal late to take the lead, and then hung on as NIU almost pulled off a miraculous final play.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: If NIU can get the passing game going at all (which isn't a given), it should be able to roll up yards in chunks. Over the last two games, North Dakota cranked out 352 yards on the Gopher secondary, while Matt Barkley was able to throw without much of a problem in USC's win last week. The stats against the run might not be that bad, but the Gophers can be run on by anyone who wants to commit to pounding away. The linebackers are suspect, and the defensive front isn't getting to the quarterback at all to stop plays before they get started. Considering the way the NIU backfield has moved the ball over the last few week, the Gopher defense will be under siege. Fortunately for the Maroon & Gold …
Why Minnesota Might Win: … NIU can't throw. Iowa State, North Dakota, and Illinois don't exactly have steel traps in the secondary, yet the Huskies still weren't able to take advantage. On the other side of the ball, NIU has been surprisingly disappointing in key moment against the run. Illinois was able to motor for 319 yards and three scores, and Iowa State hit a few gamebreaking home runs on the way to a three touchdown day and the opening day win. Minnesota's offensive line has been a positive so far, as has ...
What To Watch Out For: … Duane Bennett, who tore off 187 yards against Middle Tennessee and 104 yards and two touchdowns against South Dakota. He suffered an ankle injury against USC and was a non-factor, but junior DeLeon Eskridge wasn't able to pick up the slack gaining just 31 yards and a score 13 carries. Veteran quarterback Adam Weber has been efficient and effective, but the passing game isn't carrying the offense; the backs have to produce. On the other side, NIU QB Chandler Harnish has been terrific since taking over in the second week of the year. After tearing off 178 rushing yards against North Dakota, he ran for 117 and a score against Illinois as the main man in the attack. Two years ago, he lit up the Gophers for 326 passing yards and two touchdowns in the loss, got hurt the next week, and has only thrown for over 200 yards once since then. One of those times was last week against the Illini.
What Will Happen: Minnesota hasn't been as awful as the South Dakota loss and the 1-2 start might indicate, but it's just not working. Meanwhile, NIU was supposed to be good enough to beat a bad Illinois team and a mediocre Iowa State squad, and wasn't. The Gophers will have a sixty minute fight on their hands, but Weber will come up with a solid and efficient effort to provide just enough balance to get Minnesota a desperately needed win.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 27 … Northern Illinois 21 … 5Dimes.com Line: Minnesota -4
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 2.5
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Northern Colorado (2-1) at Michigan State (3-0) Sept. 25, 12:00, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal … It's been an interesting week for Michigan State, to say the least. Just when the program was hitting its highest moment in years with a terrifically executed fake field goal to beat Notre Dame, head coach Mark Dantonio's heart attack quickly shifted the focus of the moment. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will take over for now, and he'll get a week to take the team out for a spin with a tune-up against Northern Colorado before dealing with Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener. The Bears are off to a terrific start going 2-1 with the lone loss a four-overtime thriller to Weber State. Considering the program won six games in the previous four years, this constitutes a hot start. It won't continue.
Why Northern Colorado Might Win: The interception thrown in last week's win over Idaho State was the Bears' only turnover so far this season, while the defense has done a phenomenal job of taking the ball away with 11 takeaways including six fumble recoveries in the wild loss to Weber State. Dylan Orms and the passing game have been ultra-efficient, while the Michigan State secondary has been a sore spot from the start of the season and will be a negative all year long. After last week's thriller, with next week's showdown with the Badgers, and with all the drama surrounding Dantonio's heart attack, the Spartans can be forgiven if they're not taking a team from the Big Sky Conference all that seriously. There's a chance the lack of focus leads to a sloppy game against a team that has found its scoring punch early.
Why Michigan State Might Win: Consider it a success if Northern Colorado comes up with more than 50 yards on the ground. MSU's run defense has been phenomenal so far, and while the opponents haven't exactly been pounding with the ground game, especially considering the ease they've had throwing the ball, the front line really has been that strong. While the Spartan pass rush has been mediocre so far, the Bears are awful in pass protection. No running game and little help to keep Orms upright should lead to several empty drives, while MSU should be able pound away at will with its running game.
What To Watch Out For: It'll be an interesting call for the MSU coaching staff on what to do with Eric Gordon, the star linebacker and great running mate for All-American, Greg Jones. Gordon apparently suffered a concussion against Notre Dame, and while he was tested and everything came back fine, he didn't get back in the game. MSU doesn't need him to beat Northern Colorado, but they desperately need him to be 100% before facing Wisconsin next week and Denard Robinson and Michigan the week after. If he plays this week and something happens that keeps him out of the marquee games coming up, there will be plenty of second-guessing and lots of criticism. Senior Jon Misch is more than fine to fill in this week if needed.
What Will Happen: It's not going to be the sharpest of efforts, but that's fine. MSU will be able to go through the motions and pound away with its running game on the way to the easy win.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 38 … Northern Colorado 6 … 5Dimes.com Line: No Line
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 1
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Austin Peay (2-1) at Wisconsin (3-0) Sept. 25, 12:00, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal … Austin Peay vs. Wisconsin might sound like a first round NCAA Tournament matchup, but it's a great chance for the Badgers to get the backups some live reps while trying to let a banged up team heal. While the 3-0 start looks nice, it took way too much, including a blocked extra point, to slip by Arizona State, and the San Jose state layup rattled around the rim a bit before going down. With at trip to Michigan State up next week, Wisconsin's perfect world would be to play the starters for about a half, especially to get the timing of the passing game down, before coasting in the second half. The defense already lost linebacker Chris Borland for the season and could stand to give dinged up defensive tackle J.J. Watt and workhorse running back John Clay a break. Austin Peay won its Ohio Valley Conference opener against Tennessee State last week, but got blasted by Middle Tennessee 56-33 the week before.
Why Austin Peay Might Win: Wisconsin will have no interest whatsoever in this being a battle. While the Badgers haven't played up to their capabilities and they need to look much, much better before dealing with Michigan State, this game is about getting in, giving the fans a show, and then healing up. The Governors have a terrific running game and a good enough offensive line to move the chains a little bit against the Borland-less defensive front, and the 1-2 rushing punch of Ryan White and Terrence Holt is strong enough to make things interesting. UW won't worry a lick about the woeful Gov passing game and will sell out to stop the run, so White and Holt could hit a few home runs if they can get into the second level.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: 353 yards and seven touchdowns. That's the rushing production Middle Tennessee was able to crank out against Austin Peay a few weeks ago with three backs tearing off 76 yards or more. The Wisconsin coaching staff is doing a good job of limiting John Clay's carries early, keeping him on the sidelines for most of the first part of the Arizona State game. The hope is to do a little of the same, only this week with no need to use him in the second half. James White and Montee Ball are more than talented enough to each crank out more than 100 yards behind a line that should flatten the Gov defensive front. Wisconsin is good enough to win this game without throwing a pass, but …
What To Watch Out For: … the passing game needs to get in sync. Now. With receivers Nick Toon and David Gilreath hurt and out last week, the Badgers used their fantastic tight end, Lance Kendricks, to keep the chains moving. Gilreath likely won't play as he still recovers from a concussion suffered against San Jose State, while Toon is trying to get past a turf toe problem. Toon is expected to be back on the field, and he needs to shake the rust off before the date in East Lansing.
What Will Happen: The Badgers will put this away after two drives. After the sluggish performances the last two weeks, they'll actually try for about 20 minutes before powering down.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 48 … Austin Peay 7 … 5Dimes.com Line: No Line
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 1.5
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- Sept. 25 (CMU-Northwestern)