2010 Big Ten Fearless Picks - Oct 2 (UW-MSU)
Michigan RB Edwin Baker
Michigan RB Edwin Baker
Posted Sep 30, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten game, Oct. 2

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 5 ... Oct. 2 Games

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:31-2   ATS: 12-15-1

- Oct. 2, Part 2 (Penn St-Iowa) 


Wisconsin (4-0) at Michigan State (4-0) Oct. 2, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … Ohio State is the Big Ten's marquee team, Iowa is getting plenty of respect after last year's Orange Bowl winning campaign, and Michigan is getting the spotlight because of its offense, but Wisconsin and Michigan State are each front and center in the race for the Big Ten title. The Spartans don't play the Buckeyes, but with conference road games at Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State, they can't afford to lose any home game, even against a team as good as Wisconsin. The Badgers are coming off a 70-3 win over Austin Peay, but they've been a bit sketchy at times struggling a little too much to put away a miserable San Jose State and needing a blocked extra point to beat Arizona State. Not getting Penn State, it's a four-game schedule for the Badgers with Ohio State and Iowa coming up in mid-October, and a date at Michigan in late November, but they need to prove they can beat a good team on the road to truly be considered one of the ten best teams in the country. The running game is strong, the offense is balanced, and the defense has been solid, but Michigan State also has a physical running game, a balanced attack, and a defense that's doing a solid job. The two teams are almost perfectly matched, and it'll be slightly shocking if they didn't play yet another great game in the recent series with the last three coming down to the end. (However, this was one of the uglier Big Ten matchups for several years with blowout after blowout from both sides.) Of course, the biggest storyline is the health of head coach Mark Dantonio, who's planning on being in the booth two weeks after suffering a heart attack following the win over Notre Dame.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: Michigan State hasn't faced anyone who can remotely run the ball. Florida Atlantic is 114th in the nation in rushing, Western Michigan is 112th, Notre Dame is 99th, and Northern Colorado is Northern Colorado. The Spartans might have one of the best linebacking pairs in the country in Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, but the line in front of them should get steamrolled over by a Badger offensive front that's playing as well as any in the country. Yes, MSU can pound away with the ground game, but it doesn't have anywhere near the running game that Wisconsin is about to bring to East Lansing. The Badger passing game, injuries and all, should be effective with no Spartan pass rush to worry about, Fifth in the nation in passing efficiency, Wisconsin should be able to pick and choose how it wants to move the ball.
Why Michigan State Might Win: Wisconsin's defense is getting it done with smoke and mirrors. LB Chris Borland is out for the year with a shoulder injury, the secondary is extremely beatable (making Arizona State's Steven Threet and San Jose State's Jordan La Secla look special), and the pass rush isn't there without taking a ton of chances. The Badgers have faced one team, Arizona State, with any semblance of an offense, and they have yet to be smacked in the mouth by anyone with a decent offensive line. If the Sun Devils can look physical against your defensive front, you have problems. The Spartans have yet to unleash the passing game that was so dangerous last year, but this might be the time. However …
What To Watch Out For: … the ground attack appears to be stronger than any in the Dantonio era. Sophomore Edwin Baker was the star of last year's recruiting class, and he's playing like it with 449 yards, with two 100-yard games, and five scores in the first four games, while one of the stars of this year's class, Le'Veon Bell, is thumping along with 141 yards and two scores against Western Michigan and 114 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame. With these two, MSU can out-Wisconsin, Wisconsin, but neither back is in the class of John Clay. The Badger junior has been used almost perfectly so far by the coaching staff, getting just enough work in to be the main focus of the offense, while not being worn down. With 100-yards in each of the first four games, and after ripping up the Spartans for 142 yards last year and 111 as a freshman, now is his time to show why he might be the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
What Will Happen: Shootout. Neither team will be able to stop the others' running game, but the Badgers are a little better on the ground, the passing game will be little more efficient, and MSU will hit just enough of a lull late in the third quarter to give Wisconsin the opening needed to take control of a hard-hitting, physical classic. For all of you tired of the tippy-tappy-toe spread stuff, enjoy.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 37 … Michigan State 31 … 5Dimes.com Line: Wisconsin -2
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 4.5
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Northwestern (4-0) at Minnesota (1-3) Oct. 2, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Minnesota started the 2008 season 7-1 and appeared to be on the verge of turning a corner in the new era under head coach Tim Brewster. Northwestern came up with a pick six in the final moments to pull out a stunning 24-17 win in the Dome, and the Gophers have stunk ever since winning just seven of their last 16 games. However, one of those wins was against Northwestern last year, and it'll take another victory over the Cats to turn around a miserable season that keeps taking ugly twists and turns. Losing to USC is one thing, but having home losses to an FCS team (South Dakota) and a MAC squad (Northern Illinois) is a problem. Northwestern has been fine on the way to 4-0, but it had a hard time putting away Central Michigan last week and it needed a fight to get by Vanderbilt. With a home game against a bad Purdue team up next, the Cats will almost certainly be 6-0 with a win this week. Without Ohio State or Michigan to deal with, Northwestern could show it'll be deep in the Big Ten title chase all season long by blowing out a bad Gopher team.
Why Northwestern Might Win: It's all connected. Minnesota doesn't have any semblance of a pass rush with just two sacks in the first four games, the secondary has to cover for ten days, and teams have no problems coming up with big pass plays. NIU didn't come up with anything big through the air because it was too busy running through the Gopher front seven for 297 yards. Northwestern is third in the nation in passing efficiency, Minnesota is 113th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and the results might not be pretty. Forget about the Gophers getting help from a slew of turnovers; the Cats are sixth in the nation in turnover margin.
Why Minnesota Might Win: Northwestern isn't really as good as its 4-0 record. Beating Vanderbilt and Central Michigan doesn't make a season strong, and while this is a decent team, it has flaws. The secondary has had problems against everyone's passing game, including a Commodore attack that can't throw a forward pass. While the Cats have only allowed three touchdown passes to go along with eight picks, Minnesota QB Adam Weber, who threw for 327 yards and a score against the Cats in 2008, and 186 yards and two touchdowns last year, is just careful enough with the ball, and just dangerous enough, to hit on several big plays as long as he gets time to work. He's trying to carry the Gophers, coming up with 373 yards and two scores last week, but he needs a little bit of help. If the running game produces, he could make this a shootout.
What To Watch Out For: MarQuies "O.J." Gray was one of the nation's elite dual threat spread recruits back when Minnesota was running the spread, but the offense changed, Gray struggled to get eligible, and the star prospect wasn't been able to get his career off the ground. Now the 6-4, 228-pound sophomore has found its niche as a receiver with a team-leading 22 catches for 328 yards and a touchdown in each of the last three games. He's not polished and he's not the type of dominating No. 1 target who requires the focus of the entire defense, but he's growing into the role. Northwestern is trying to find an explosive, playmaking receiver, but Jeremy Ebert has done his part so far with a team-leading 17 catches for 331 yards and four scores including two touchdowns last week against Central Michigan. He's reliable, but he needs to be even more dangerous for an offense that needs more stars.
What Will Happen: Minnesota finds ways to lose while Northwestern finds ways to win. Despite NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald's claim that the Minnesota coaching staff is among the best in the country, the Wildcats shouldn't have a problem picking apart the Gopher pass defense to shreds on the way to an easy win.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 30 … Minnesota 23 … 5Dimes.com Line: Northwestern -5.5
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 2.5
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Ohio State (4-0) at Illinois (2-1) Oct. 2, 12:00, BTN

Here's The Deal … Illinois might not be that bad after all. While wins over Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, along with a battle in a loss to Missouri, are no reason to book tickets for Pasadena, there's a chance that this could be a sneaky-good team as the season goes on. There's also a chance that it gets its doors blown off in an ugly three-game stretch against Ohio State, at Penn State, and at Michigan State and Ron Zook starts beefing up his résumé. No one's expecting the Illini to beat the Buckeyes this week, but they need to come up with a decent performance at home to show that they're not going to be the pushover they've been over the previous few seasons. Meanwhile, Ohio State has to see this as a layup with Indiana ahead on the way to an almost certain 6-0 start before going to Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are playing at a high level, but they've also played just one team, Miami, that knows how strap on a helmet. This is their first road test of the season, and if they're really national title-good, they need to win in a walk. Any struggles whatsoever will start to open up the BCS title debate a little bit.
Why Ohio State Might Win: Illinois isn't sharp enough to pull off an upset like this. Partly because of a first-year starting quarterback, partly because the passing game is awful, and partly because it's Illinois, this isn't the type of team that can come up with a flawless performance against, arguably, the best team in college football. New Mexico State and Ole Miss are the only two teams besides Illinois to yet pick off a pass (Illinois is 100th in the nation in turnover margin and OSU is second), but the bigger problem is an offense without any semblance of a passing game to make the Buckeye secondary sweat. Illinois has to run the ball to win, but the Buckeyes are allowing just 71 rushing yards per game.
Why Illinois Might Win: Special teams and a bend-but-don't-break defense. The Illinois D has been surprisingly fantastic in the red zone this year allowing just four touchdowns in ten opponents' trips. If field position becomes a factor, the Illini have a huge advantage in the punt return game with its special teams allowing just four yards per return and OSU dead last in the nation in punting averaging just 26 yards per shot. The Buckeye coverage teams have been mediocre, there have been too many breakdowns, and this is still a work in progress. Alright, so the Illinois return game is miserable, but the punting game is fourth in the nation and Derek Dimke hasn't missed a field goal attempt in two years going 9-for-9.
What To Watch Out For: Illinois junior Mikel Leshoure might be the best back you've never heard of. 6-0 and 230 pounds, he has a nice combination of thump and power to go along with a good burst of speed. After closing out last season with 184 yards against Fresno State, he started out 2010 hot with 112 yards against Missouri, 106 against Southern Illinois, and 180 yards and a score on just 24 carries against Northern Illinois. The game falls completely on his shoulders, and if he doesn't come up with a huge performance, QB Nathan Scheelhaase has to be brilliant. The redshirt freshman doesn't have the experience or the receiving corps to move the offense against the vaunted Buckeye D. OSU is getting a strong start to the season from senior receiver Dane Sanzebacher, who caught four touchdown passes against Eastern Michigan and has gone over the100-yard mark twice so far after doing it just once all season long. He's quick, reliable, and he's becoming Terrelle Pryor's most trusted target.
What Will Happen: Illinois will come up with a great early drive to create a buzz, and then reality will set in. OSU will score on four straight first half possessions to open it up, and the Illini will turn the ball over four times trying to bomb its way back in the game.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 38 … Illinois 16 … 5Dimes.com Line: Ohio State -18
Must See Rating: Katy Perry on Sesame Street - 5 … Eastbound & Down - 1 … 3
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- Oct. 2, Part 2 (Penn St-Iowa)