2010 Big 10 Fearless Picks - Oct. 9 (MN-UW)
Wisconsin RB James White
Wisconsin RB James White
Posted Oct 5, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big 10 game, Oct. 9, Part 2

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 6 ... Oct. 9, Part 2

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

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Minnesota (1-4) at Wisconsin (4-1) Oct. 9, 12:00, BTN

Here's The Deal … It's the longest running rivalry in college football with the two teams battling it out for the Paul Bunyan Ax, and while Wisconsin has been the far better program over the last several years, and is the far better team this year, these games tend to be close with the Badgers winning six in a row and with four of the last five, and five of the last seven, decided by a touchdown or less. However, Wisconsin can't afford a close call after a sloppy, uneven performance in last week's 34-24 loss at Michigan State. Trying to get back in the Big Ten title chase with Ohio State and a trip to Iowa over the following two weeks, the Badgers can either be front and center in the Rose Bowl discussion with three straight wins before going to Purdue, or they can politely bow out as the extremely promising season goes into the tank. A loss to Minnesota would be an ugly step down. The Gophers played well at home against Northwestern, but they went 0-4 on their homestand with losses to South Dakota and Northern Illinois, along with a loss to USC, along the way, but last week's loss was particularly galling. It was the Big Ten opener with a chance to start anew, and the Gophers couldn't take advantage of a slew of Wildcat mistakes in the one point loss. A win over Wisconsin, though, would change around the entire season.
Why Minnesota Might Win: The Minnesota offense is moving the ball. It's not a timely attack, and it's not an explosive one, but QB Adam Weber is quietly having a nice season and he has been fantastic against the Badgers over the last three years. Granted, he hasn't pulled off any wins, but he threw for 271 yards in the near-miss last year, threw for 202 yards and three scores, and ran for 43 yards and a touchdown, in the 35-32 loss in 2008, and he made things extremely interesting as a true freshman throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns, and running for 87 yards, In the 41-34 loss. Wisconsin's defense came up with one big stop against MSU, but basically crumbled in every other big moment last week. If the Gophers can finally start converting decent drives into points, they'll have a chance. However …
Why Wisconsin Might Win: … Minnesota might never get the ball. Wisconsin can pick the way it wants to get the offense moving. The ground game should be able to rumble at will against a miserable Gopher run defense, and the passing game should be ultra-efficient with Scott Tolzien getting ten days to throw. Minnesota has come up with a mere three sacks in the first five games, and the secondary has paid the price. Tolzien had an off-week against MSU, but he should be able to come up with midrange throw after midrange throw. Also helping the Badgers will be the special teams, an Achilles heel all season long. Minnesota's special teams are awful, so for the first time in a few week, Wisconsin should get a break in the third phase.
What To Watch Out For: Wisconsin will run effectively on everyone, and that included Ohio State and Iowa, but to make a big push and to come up with big wins, it has to be able to connect on all the key third down chances and more is needed from the receivers. Tight end Lance Kendricks has played at an All-America level with Nick Toon and David Gilreath hurt, but now Toon is back and he has to be better. He was awful against the Spartans with a key dropped pass and a few missed blocks, catching just one pass for 28 yards in his first game back from a toe problem. Gilreath was limited after getting flattened with a concussion against San Jose State a few weeks ago, catching just one pass for 14 yards. This is the week all the passing weapons have to click before dealing with Ohio State next week.
What Will Happen: Wisconsin should win this game by 40, but that's just not how this series has gone. Minnesota, helped from a great game from Weber, will hang around, but the Badger offense will move the ball well enough early to get out to a comfortable lead before the Gophers tack on a few fourth quarter scores to make it respectable.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 37 … Minnesota 21 … Line: Wisconsin -22
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 2.5
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Purdue (2-2) at Northwestern (5-0) Oct. 9, 7:30, BTN

Here's The Deal … Northwestern was 5-0 two years ago, so this isn't necessarily new territory. However, 6-0 is a whole other story. With a win this week, the Cats can not only seal up bowl eligibility, but they can go 6-0 for the first time since 1962, setting up a shot to go 7-0 for the first time since 1936 with a date against Michigan State next week. It's not like the wins have been against a who's who of stars, but this is Northwestern; it'll take wins whenever it can get them. Purdue gets a free pass this year with almost all the key players, at least on offense, hurt. The Boilermakers are literally working with second and third teamers now, but they've had two weeks to gear up and prepare after inexplicably losing at home to Toledo two weeks ago. As bad as things have been, with Minnesota up next, a win in Evanston might mean a 2-0 start going into the Ohio State game.
Why Purdue Might Win: Northwestern has a very, very bad habit of letting bad offenses keep games alive. Minnesota, Vanderbilt, and Central Michigan all had the puck on their stick with a chance to come up with the big score late, and none of them were able to. Purdue might be depleted, but with a couple of weeks to prepare, the Danny Hope offense should be able to keep the chains moving against an NU defense that doesn't generate a ton of sacks, while the Boilermaker defense should apply steady pressure to Wildcat QB Dan Persa to throw off the timing a bit.
Why Northwestern Might Win: Purdue has to be perfect in every phase to get by a decent team, and it's not going to be. The NU special teams have been strong, especially the punting game, and outside of some early mistakes last week, the turnover margin has been a positive. The defense has been fantastic at forcing errors, taking the ball away 13 times in the first five games, and that's not a plus with the Purdue skill players still emerging. The Boilermaker punt return game has been miserable, and the kickoffs haven't been much better, but the biggest problem will be the secondary. Purdue is 93rd in the nation in pass efficiency defense, while Northwestern is third in the nation in passing efficiency.
What To Watch Out For: Rob Henry, the show is yours. With starting quarterback Robert Marve out for the year, the Purdue offense belongs to Henry, a mobile sophomore who followed up a 65-yard rushing day against Ball State with a 67-yard day against Toledo. He made a slew of young mistakes against the Rockets, but he managed to complete 17-of-31 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown with an interception. In the hunt for Mr. Florida in 2008, he's a good leader who should eventually be the perfect fit for what the offense wants to do. On the other side, Northwestern has turned its running game over to Persa, who ran 18 times for 99 yards against the Gophers, and to Mike Trumpy, the nephew of former NFL tight end and announcer, Bob Trumpy. The freshman has rushed for 53 yards each of the last two weeks, and while he's not a workhorse, he'll get his share of carries to try to take some of the pressure off of Persa.
What Will Happen: Henry will come up with his breakout game, running or 75 yards and throwing for 200, but he'll also turn the ball over three times and Northwestern will capitalize on each mistake. The Wildcats aren't going to be amazing, but they'll be 6-0 with the national spotlight about to shine on one of college football's most interesting stories to start the season.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 31 … Purdue 17 … Line: Northwestern -10
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 2.5
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- Oct. 9 (Michigan State-Michigan)