2010 Big 10 Fearless Picks - Oct. 16

Posted Oct 13, 2010

Wisconsin was able to chop down Minnesota last week, but it needs a season-changing win over Ohio State to become a player in the Big Ten race. It's the marquee came of the weekend, but there are other big conference games. Check out the CFN Fearless Predictions for all the Week 7 Big Ten games.

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 7 ... Oct. 16 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:38-5   ATS: 17-20-1

- Oct. 16, Part 2 (Iowa-Michigan) 


Ohio State (6-0) at Wisconsin (5-1) Oct. 16, 7:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … The season begins now for Ohio State, the newly christened No. 1 team in the land. The first six games were nice, and even with a solid win over a Miami team that's not that big a deal, and a sluggish win over an Illinois squad that isn't all that bad, there hasn't been a lot to get excited about. But now is when the Buckeyes have to show whether or not they're ready to be a part of the national title chase, and Terrelle Pryor has to show that he's ready to go from being a great player to a possible all-timer.

There's this battle in Madison, and there's a trip to Iowa on November 20th. That's all that stands between OSU and Glendale. No, Penn State isn't going to be a challenge, and no, Michigan isn't going to rise up and keep an 11-0 Buckeye team from a date for the whole ball of wax, so with no Michigan State to deal with, this is it. If the Buckeyes can win impressively, then they'll be the No. 1 team in the country by a ten-mile wide margin over the next month, and then the pressure will start to mount. But Wisconsin is good enough to end the dream now.

The Badgers failed their only test of the year, losing at Michigan State two weeks ago by getting outbadgered. MSU ran the ball better, was better on third downs, and didn't make a slew of mistakes. Even with that loss, and despite struggles against a solid Arizona State team and a miserable San Jose State squad, Wisconsin is better than it looked over the first half of the season. The Spartans might be in the driver's seat for Pasadena if the Badgers pull off the upset this week, but the conference race would get very interesting, very fast if Bret Bielema can get his first win over the Buckeyes.

It seems like Wisconsin has had great success over the years against Ohio State, but that's partially because the victories came on such a high profile stage. In fact, the Badgers haven't won in the series since 2004 and lost the last two games in particularly tough fashion. They had the 2008 game in their grasp, but Pryor had his coming-of-age moment leading the way to a touchdown on a gut-check drive for a 20-17 win. Last year, Wisconsin totally dominated the stat sheet holding on to the ball for 42:47 and held the Buckeye offense to 184 yards, but lost 31-13 because of two bad interceptions and special teams problems. If Wisconsin is ready to be a player, this is the chance. If Ohio State is ready to be the team of the 2010 season, now it its shot.

Why Ohio State Might Win: The Buckeye offense could gets stuffed, the run defense could be pounded on, and Pryor might struggle, and the result could be the exact same as last season for the exact same reasons. Wisconsin hasn't been awful at turning the ball over, and Scott Tolzien has only thrown two picks on the year and none in the last four games, but his banged up receivers haven't exactly been special. Ohio State is fourth in the nation against the run, allowing just 79 yards per game and three touchdowns, and Tolzien will have to press a bit more than usual. If the Buckeye linebackers and safeties can blanket TE Lance Kendricks and force Tolzien to go to the outside, the chances for interceptions will be there on passes that seem to hang in the air for two days. The biggest problem for the Badgers could come after they score. Ohio State is tenth in the nation in kickoff return yards averaging 26.79 yards per pop, while the UW coverage teams have been abysmal allowing over 23 yards per return and a whopping 18 yards per punt return, sixth-worst in the nation.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: Yeah, Ohio State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in total defense, third in the nation, and fourth in rushing defense, but it has yet to be punched in the mouth. Miami's offensive line is mediocre, at best, and Illinois is running because of Mikel Leshoure, who ran for a solid 80 yards on 19 carries, and Nathan Scheelhaase, a nice running quarterback. No one else has come close to providing any sort of a push, but that will change this week. The Wisconsin offensive front got destroyed last year by the Buckeye defensive front, and this is the game the veteran group has been pointing to for a year as a chance at redemption. This should be the textbook definition of a frothing-at-the-mouth line that will come out looking to prove a point from Snap One. Defensively, other than the Michigan State loss, Wisconsin has been fantastic all season long on third downs, and OSU is mediocre on third-and-mediums. If the Badgers can keep Pryor in the pocket on third down and force him to make throws down the field, they'll get the ball back more often than not.
What To Watch Out For: Terrelle Pryor might be considered the Big Ten's brightest star, but Wisconsin RB John Clay was the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, but his worst game of the season came against the Buckeyes rushing for just 59 yards, and he was kept to 69 yards in 2009. Over his last 16 games, he has run for fewer than 100 yards just three times, and it's not a coincidence that Wisconsin is 12-4 during that span with losses in all three games when he was under the century mark, and the other loss was against Northwestern when he hit 100 yards on the nose. The coaching staff is using him less as a workhorse and more as a situational hammer, starting out games with him early on, keeping him out for stretches, and then using him in the second half to beat up tired defenses. He doesn't have to do it all with freshman James White becoming a bigger part of the attack with 361 yards and eight touchdowns in his last three games.
What Will Happen: Last year, Ohio State's defensive front came into the game challenged after struggling over the first part of the season, and it came up with a huge performance. This year, the challenge is for the Wisconsin offensive front to make amends, and it will. The Badgers won't run wild, but they'll come up with two grinding drives, helped by some key throws from Tolzien, to get just enough points to overcome a special teams gaffe and a huge day on the ground from Dan Herron and the Buckeye running game. Pryor will have the puck on his stick in the final moments to make his statement in the Heisman chase, and he'll come up just short in a heartstopping final drive.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 23 … Ohio State 20 … Line: Ohio State -4
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … 5
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Arkansas State (2-4) at Indiana (3-2) Oct. 16, 12:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … After two straight losses and with the tough Big Ten slate kicking in next week, Indiana has to come up with a win this week or any realistic hope for a bowl game might be over. The offense has firepower, but the defense has had problems once the Hoosiers started playing real teams with Michigan and Ohio State rolling at will. Arkansas State has just enough punch in its attack to have similar success with one of the Sun Belt's best passing games and an offense that has scored 24 points or more in every game so far. This is the third game against a BCS conference team with the first a 52-26 opening day loss to Auburn and the second a 34-24 battle against Louisville, but the real concern is with the 2-2 Sun Belt record that doesn't leave any margin for error the rest of the way. The Sun Belt will send at least two teams bowling, and at 2-4, ASU can't afford a loss this week. It should be a fun and entertaining shootout with plenty of passing yards and lots of points. Neither team can play defense, and both can throw.
Why Arkansas State Might Win: The Hoosier secondary couldn't stop anything Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense wanted to do two weeks ago, and Terrelle Pryor set a personal record last week as Ohio State bombed away for 348 passing yards. After coming up with three picks in the opening game against Towson, IU has come up with just one interception over the last four games and forced three fumbles, and while the talent is there to win a shootout, it would be nice to win the turnover battle. ASU has one of the Sun Belt's most efficient passing games, and considering IU doesn't have a pass rush, Aplin should get plenty of time to work.
Why Indiana Might Win: Considering ASU has scored 24 points in three of its six games, and is averaging a steady 27 points per game, the offense hasn't been consistent enough and has played down to its competition. Losing all four games against teams with a decent offense, the Red Wolves got bombed on by Troy and Louisville for over 300 passing yards in each game, and Auburn ran for 367 and threw for 241. The corners are way too mediocre to keep up with a receiving corps that might be the best in the Big Ten, and with no pass rush to get to QB Ben Chappell, and with the Hoosier line allowing a mere four sacks so far, expect at least 350 yards through the air for IU.
What To Watch Out For: Indiana can win this game simply by chucking it all over the yard, but the attack is far better when top running back Darius Willis is working. The team's leading rusher missed the Ohio State game with a groin injury, and while he wouldn't have been the difference, his absence didn't help. Trea Burgess is a former linebacker with good size and power, but little speed. He was the team's leading rusher last week with 30 yards on nine carries, while true freshman Antonio Banks ran for 18 yards and a score. With slippery cutback ability, Banks has the potential to crank out big runs against the mediocre ASU defensive front that's 115th in the nation against the run. For ASU, it's all about Aplin. The sophomore threw for 438 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and has been careful with the ball so far, but he's going to have to take several chances this week. He'll have to push the ball down the field and he'll have to keep pressing to keep up the pace.
What Will Happen: Expect over 700 passing yards and several momentum swings, but the Arkansas State defense might not ever stop the IU offense outside of a few key turnovers that'll keep things from getting out of hand. The Hoosier defense isn't going to be a brick wall, but it'll make enough stops to let the offense do all the work.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 38 … Arkansas State 24 … Line: Indiana -12
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … X
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Illinois (3-2) at Michigan State (6-0) Oct. 16, 12:00, BTN

Here's The Deal … Very quietly, this has become one of the Big Ten's most lopsided rivalries with Michigan State winning ten of the last 11 meetings going back to 1992, but the Illini can quickly erase a bad run with a huge, season-altering win. Illinois, with a good performance against Ohio State and a shockingly dominant win over Penn State, has turned out to be solid, and with layups against Indiana and Purdue up next at home, a win over Michigan State should mean a great run going into November. The offense has been spotty, but the defense has been strong and the special teams have been terrific. Everything will have to work to get by a red-hot Spartan team that has been lights out ever since the gutty overtime fake field goal call against Notre Dame. With no Ohio State on the schedule and Wisconsin out of the way, this might be a one game season – at Iowa on October 30th – with a home win over the Illini.
Why Illinois Might Win: Can Michigan State find the fire for a fourth game in a row? The Notre Dame game was the emotional first big battle of the year, and then came the Mark Dantonio heart attack and the terrific performance against Wisconsin, and then came the rivalry showdown against Denard Robinson and Michigan. You can only get pumped up so many weeks in a row, and while everyone is saying all the right things about facing the Illini, it's another thing to do it. The Illinois defense has been terrific this year on third downs, allowing conversions just 33% of the time, while MSU offense, Wisconsin game aside, is one of the worst in America at keeping the chains moving converting just 36% of its chances. Penn State converted just 2-of-14 tries last week against the Illini, while MSU converted a mere 4-of-13 chances against the porous Michigan D.
Why Michigan State Might Win: Illinois doesn't have a passing game. QB Nathan Scheelhaase hasn't been awful, but the Illini attack is geared around running the ball and capitalizing on opportunities. The problem is that the two stars of the spread, Scheelhaase and RB Mikel Leshoure, could have problems finding room against Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, two of the nation's best linebackers. It took a total team effort to keep Denard Robinson in check last week, and Jones and Gordon didn't put up huge numbers, but that will change this week as the two should attack Leshoure all game long. The other big key will be the return game. Keshawn Martin is having a fabulous year averaging 17.64 yards per punt return (but is struggling on kickoffs), while Illinois is among the worst in the nation in both categories averaging a mere 2.08 yards per punt return and 18.29 yards per kickoff attempt.
What To Watch Out For: Michigan State is using a running back-by-committee approach, but sophomore Edwin Baker is turning into the main man in key stretches. Le'Veon Bell is the punisher and Larry Caper is a good all-around option, but it's Baker who was the star last week with 147 yards and a score on a career-high 22 carries. His workload is increasing, and while he won't have to do everything for the offense, if he can match Leshoure's production, MSU will be just fine. In the MSU secondary, top corner Chris Rucker will be out after being suspended for drunk driving. This is the one game where it shouldn't matter since Illinois isn't going to get vertical.
What Will Happen: Illinois has to be perfect, and it won't be. MSU is 13th in the nation in turnover margin and the Illini is 93rd, but more than mistakes, the Illinois firepower isn't there to pull this off. MSU is humming in too many phases to let down now with everything working at a high level. It'll take a total team meltdown to lose to a good, but not great Illini team.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 26 … Illinois 13 … Line: Michigan State -7
Must See Rating: Jackass 3D – 5 … The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town -1 … 3
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- Oct. 16, Part 2 (Iowa-Michigan)