2010 Big 10 Fearless Picks - Oct. 9
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Posted Oct 5, 2010

Yeah, Denard Robinson has been ripping up defenses at a record pace, but it's not like Michigan has played a who's who of top defenses. Now comes a huge test against MSU and it's fantastic linebacking corps in the Big Ten Game of the Week. Check out the Fearless Predictions for every Week 6 game.

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 6 ... Oct. 9 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:35-3   ATS: 14-18-1

- Oct. 9, Part 2 (Minnesota-Wisconsin) 


Michigan State (5-0) at Michigan (5-0) Oct. 9, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … If you're the Michigan head coach, beating Ohio State is part of the deal. If you don't do that on a regular basis, you become an ex-Michigan head in a hurry with the "couldn't beat Ohio State" tag attached to your name. But beating Michigan State, at least to Michigan fans, is just as big a deal. Beating Ohio State is a national thing, everyone pays attention to the showdown, but having to listen to your little brother chirp gets very annoying, very fast, and that leads to a grouchy fan base and a shorter leash for the head man. That's why, even with the great 5-0 start and all the excitement about the offense finally working like it's supposed to, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez must come up with a win this week.

RichRod is 0-2 against the Spartans, which, combined with the 0-2 record against Ohio State, has put him on a hot seat far more than any NCAA slaps on the wrist have. Lloyd Carr might have struggled with the Buckeyes during the end of his tenure, but in general he owned Sparty winning the last six in the series before he retired and seven of his last eight times. But unlike any of those other games, the stakes are higher now than they've been in years with the first matchup of unbeaten Wolverine and Spartan teams since 1999, when Michigan State finished 10-2 and went on to beat Florida in a phenomenal Citrus Bowl, and Michigan finished 10-2 and beat Alabama in an even more classic Orange Bowl. These two teams might not be as good as those were, but the winner will be deep in the hunt for the Rose Bowl, and possible more.

Michigan State proved it's for real with a terrific win over a strong Wisconsin team. With no Ohio State on the schedule, last week was Test No. 1, this week is the follow up, and the October 30th date at Iowa is No. 3. Considering Penn State is struggling, if Michigan State is good enough to pass the first three tests, it should be able to get by the Nittany Lions and Northwestern on the road. For now, though, just getting a third straight win over the Wolverines for a 6-0 start would make for a successful season even with a few losses down the road.

For Michigan, beating Michigan State again would be big, being bowl eligible would be bigger, and avoiding a possible slide would be the biggest deal with Iowa and a trip to Penn State to follow. Considering the problems the Wolverines have had with mediocre Indiana and UMass teams, and with Wisconsin and Ohio State also ahead, along with the rough stretch to follow this week's game, getting that sixth win now might be a must.

Why Michigan State Might Win: Michigan's defense is playing as poorly as the offense is playing great. The depleted secondary has led to the nation's worst pass defense, and while teams have had to bomb away to keep up in shootout, giving up 307.8 passing yards per game isn't a plus. By far, MSU is the best team Michigan has faced so far with a balanced attack that should be able to pound away with the ground game just enough to keep Denard Robinson and the high-powered Wolverine attack on the sidelines for long stretches, and while the line hasn't been a rock in pass protection, the Michigan defensive front isn't good enough to take advantage with a slew of pressures and key sacks. MSU can throw at will, run when it wants to, and do whatever it must to keep up the pace.
Why Michigan Might Win: To have any shot of stopping Robinson and the Michigan ground game, you have to get into the backfield and stop plays before they get started. Read and react, and you're seeing the back of a No. 16 jersey and flowing dreadlocks flying down the field. Wisconsin was held to 165 yards rushing, but it actually ran well with James White averaging 9.8 yards per dash and John Clay rumbling for 4.7 yards per run despite tweaking an ankle. MSU was able to overcome its problems last week to get by the Badgers, but third down conversions and penalties were a major problem over the first month of the season. If the Spartans revert to form and can't keep the chains moving, and if they kill themselves with a slew of penalties, Michigan will pounce.
What To Watch Out For: If you wanted to see what Robinson and the Michigan offense could do against a real defense, here it is. This is the real Heisman moment and this is the real test to see just how powerful the machine is. Michigan State doesn't have a brick wall of a defense, but it's the best the Wolverines have faced so far, and most importantly, the linebackers are there to potentially keep Robinson in check. Greg Jones isn't putting up the huge stats he came up with over his first few years, but he destroyed the Badger offense early on last week and is still, arguably, the best all-around linebacker in America. Throw in running mate, Eric Gordon, who has all-star talent and the terrific tackling ability of defensive back Chris L. Rucker, and there's a chance Robinson gets bottled up for a few long stretches and will have to rely on the passing game and the running backs more than usual.
What Will Happen: The Mark Dantonio storyline will dominate early on, and then the great game will be the focus as each team will throw haymaker after haymaker. Robinson won't run and throw for 200 yards, but he'll still come up with a fantastic game with one long run and a slew of good short to midrange passes. However, the Michigan State offensive balance, especially the power running game, will be enough to control the game and run out the clock late so Robinson doesn't get a last minute chance to come up with his usual heroics.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 45 … Michigan 37 … Line: Michigan -5
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 5
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Indiana (3-1) at Ohio State (5-0) Oct. 9, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … 16-0-1 in the last 17 games in the series and with the last game closer than ten points coming in 1993, Ohio State has owned Indiana. However, the Hoosiers have a puncher's chance to come up with a shocker thanks to one of the Big Ten's most dangerous passing games and a decent running game to provide a balance. After bombing away on Michigan in a tough loss, the Hoosiers now have to deal with a wounded Buckeye team looking to make a statement after a rough win at Illinois. With Arkansas State to kick off a run of three home games in the next four, and with a winnable date against Purdue down the road, IU is still in the hunt for a bowl game, but a win in the Horseshoe for the first time since 1987 would take on a program-changing meaning of its own. The Buckeyes rolled through their first four games of the year, but the offense didn't work against the Illini, Terrelle Pryor suffered a pulled quad, and all of a sudden, the team that seemed so dominant over the first month became extremely ordinary. With a trip to Wisconsin up next, OSU needs to show that it really is the type of team that can rise up and drop an Indiana like it was, well, Indiana. If this isn't a blowout win, it'll be time to worry.
Why Indiana Might Win: The Buckeyes have yet to face anyone who can throw the forward pass. Miami's passing game is nice, but it's hardly efficient and it makes as many mistakes as big plays. Indiana has nothing to lose on the road and will start bombing, and pressing, and pushing the ball down the field on a regular basis with the nation's fourth-ranked passing attack. Generating consistent pressure on the quarterback has been a problem so far for the Buckeyes, and the IU offensive line has been terrific at keeping QB Ben Chappell clean. Unlike last week against Illinois, OSU might have to open it up a little bit to keep up the pace and/or to stay comfortably ahead. Indiana has the skill to come back if there's a lull, so the Buckeyes can't sit back and coast on any lead.
Why Ohio State Might Win: OSU has to blast away with its running game. Michigan runs well on everyone, and tore up the Hoosiers for 297 yards and three scores, but Towson came up with 227 yards and the anemic Western Kentucky and Akron attacks were also effective. The IU defensive front doesn't generate a lick of pressure, so if Pryor wants to drop back and hang out for an hour and wait for his second and third options to break open, he can. But pounding away with the ground game will be the easiest way to control the clock and keep Chappell off the field. Dan Herron didn't play in last year's game, but third leading rusher Brandon Saine did, tearing off 113 yards and two scores in his best game of the season. The backs should be able to take the pressure off Pryor this week.
What To Watch Out For: Pryor might be the team's leading rusher, but he's not Denard Robinson and he's not going to rip through the Indiana defense like the Michigan star did last week. With a dinged up leg, he has to be more of a pocket passer and use this winnable game to do more down the field, because if he can't do it this week, he's not going to be able to against Wisconsin next week. On the other side, Indiana has to get Chappell going early, and he has to come up with a better game than he did last year throwing for 210 yards and two scores with two interceptions in the 33-14 loss. He has thrown for 342 yards or more in each of the last three games and went off on Michigan for 480 yards. With 12 touchdown passes and just one interception on the year, he's on fire and he has to be the best player on the field to give the Hoosiers a shot.
What Will Happen: Ohio State won't be pretty, but it'll pound away with the running game while the defense will keep Chappell under wraps. IU will throw for 300 yards, but it'll also give away the ball four times getting bit by the turnover margin for the first time all year. Three Buckeye runners will tear off 75 yards or more.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 38 … Indiana 16 … Line: Ohio State -22.5
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 2.5
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Illinois (2-2) at Penn State (2-2) Oct. 9, 12:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … While the perception might be that Penn State is in a better place than Illinois at the moment, this is a crossroads game for both teams looking to keep their head above water in the Big Ten race. Penn State played its second BCS-level team this season, and lost to Iowa by the same 24-3 score it lost to Alabama by. The offense doesn't have much pop, and while the defense has been fine, it hasn't been the killer it needs to be to pick up the slack. With winnable games against Minnesota, Michigan, and Northwestern to follow, the Nittany Lions need to win this week and go on a nice run before dealing with an Ohio State team that slogged its way past Illinois last weekend. The Illini hung tight for three quarters, but failed to take advantage of its opportunities and couldn't come up with a key stop late. With a trip to Michigan State next week, a loss in Happy Valley probably means an 0-3 Big Ten start before getting home games against Illinois and Purdue, but a win, thanks to a light schedule ahead with no Wisconsin or Iowa, means the Big Ten title, shockingly, would still be in play. Penn State has won four of the last five games in the series with Illinois only winning twice since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. Illinois has never won at Penn State.
Why Illinois Might Win: The Penn State offense is way too anemic. Illinois has played solid defense so far against high-powered Missouri and Iowa State attacks, along with wins over Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. The Penn State offensive line might be doing a decent job of keeping QB Robert Bolden upright, but the Illinois defense should provide steady pressure with a good, consistent pass rush that bothered Terrelle Pryor last week and forced him to rush way too many of his throws. If Bolden isn't getting time, the Nittany Lion attack won't go anywhere.
Why Penn State Might Win: Penn State might have one of the least efficient passing games in America, but Illinois is right up there (or down there). The Illini passing attack is generating a Big Ten worst 130.5 yards per game while the offense is last in the league in total yards, too. The biggest problem for a team without much offensive punch has been turnover margin, ranking last in the Big Ten. The O has only given it away eight times in the first four games, but the defense isn't doing enough to help the cause with just seven takeaways. Penn State isn't much better, but at home, the defense needs to come up with the breaks the Illini won't.
What To Watch Out For: Welcome to the next four years of the respective programs. Both teams are struggling through growing pains at quarterback with the hope for big-time returns in the near future. Robert Bolden hasn't been awful, but he's not connecting on anything down field for the Penn State passing game and he's not getting the ball in the end zone. Two of his three touchdown passes came against Youngstown State, and the other was against Kent State, to go along with six interceptions on the year. He's not immobile, but he's not the dangerous rushing threat that Nathan Scheelhaase is. The Illinois redshirt freshman held his own against the Ohio State defense, and while he's not getting the passing game going as well as Bolden is, he's running well with 115 yards and a score against Northern Illinois and a touchdown against the Buckeyes. It's not a stretch to say that whichever quarterback plays better will win this week.
What Will Happen: Illinois just doesn't have the passing pop to pull off the upset. Mikel Leshoure and the ground game will be bottled up, and while the defense will do its part to keep Penn State from running wild, the Illini attack won't take advantage. Expect a low scoring game with each offense struggling to produce in a battle of field goals.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 19 … Illinois 12 … Line: Penn State -7.5
Must See Rating: Britney on Glee -5 … Life As We Know It - 1 … 2.5
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- Oct. 9, Part 2 (Minnesota-Wisconsin)