2010 Big 10 Fearless Picks - Nov 20 Wis-Mich
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Posted Nov 18, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten Game, Nov. 20, Part 2

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 12 ... Nov. 20, Part 2

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

- Nov. 20 (Ohio State -Iowa) 

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Wisconsin (9-1) at Michigan (7-3) Nov. 20, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Michigan's scintillating 67-65 triple overtime win over Illinois two weeks ago was the talk of the Big Ten world. It was an offensive shootout that Big Ten fans have never seen before, and then Indiana went to Madison. The Hoosiers and Badgers were locked in a good, tight battle in the first quarter, and then the Wisconsin offensive line went to work and the points started coming, and coming, and coming. If it's possible to put up a quiet 83 points, Wisconsin did it. Yeah, there was a bomb in the fourth quarter by the third stringers, but the same Indiana team that came within a dropped touchdown pass of beating Indiana all of a sudden couldn't tackle worth a lick, and the Badger offense took advantage. After that performance, Indiana is tenth in the Big Ten is total defense, scoring defense, run defense, and passing efficiency defense.

Michigan's defense is worse.

That's not to say that the Badger are going to hang a hundy on the Wolverines, but the offense that's humming on all cylinders should be able to keep the production rolling against a Michigan defense that looked great against a miserable Purdue offense, but hasn't stopped anyone cold all season long. However, the Badger defense is way overdue to get pushed a little bit, and on Senior Day and with bowl eligibility all wrapped up, the Wolverines are going to pull out all the stops. Rich Rodriguez has passed through the storm, for now, and while he has come up with a few decent wins in his time in Ann Arbor, most notably the victory two years ago of a Badger team that, for lack of a better way to put it, choked, this would take the program to another level.

Wisconsin is well aware of the 27-25 gack of 2008, and they're not going to take this game lightly in any way. Appearances matter since the three-way Big Ten tie-breaker comes down to the BCS ranking, but a win this week and over Northwestern, and a Michigan State loss to either Purdue or Penn State, gets the Badgers the Big Ten title outright. Win the last two games, hope for a close Ohio State win, stay ahead in the BCS rankings, go the Rose Bowl. It seems simple, but this is going to be a war.

Why Wisconsin Might Win: Michigan has faced three teams this year that run the ball at a high level. The Wolverine defense kept a not-awake-yet Connecticut team under wraps in the opener, but Illinois spread its way to 315 yards and five scores and Michigan State pounded away for 249 yards and three touchdowns. The Badger offensive line is the best in America, and it's playing at the highest level right now paving the way for a ground game that's averaging 228 yards per game. However, the bigger problem for Michigan will be the ultra-efficient UW passing attack that's averaging 200 yards per outing. Michigan doesn't generate enough of a pass rush to get to Scott Tolzien on a regular basis, and he's going to light up the Wolverine secondary like a Christmas tree.
Why Michigan Might Win: Wisconsin is fast. The notion that the Badgers are slow and stodgy is a myth coming from the bruising offensive style of play. However, the program has traditionally had problems with speedy offenses with talented quarterbacks who run the spread at a high level. 2008 might be a lifetime ago, but UW had a horrible year against fast quarterbacks, almost bottoming out in a near-miss against Cal Poly (led by now-Army head coach, Rich Ellerson). Last year, several good, mobile quarterbacks were able to make games interesting late. This year, Arizona State gave the Badgers fits with its speedy skill players flying through space for yards in chunks, and while the defense did a great job of keeping Terrelle Pryor and the OSU offense under wraps, that might have been an aberration. Lost in last week's debacle was that Indiana moved the ball before Ben Chappell was knocked out, with the Hoosier receivers producing before things got ugly. Michigan might give up points and yards in bunches this week, but it has so many top-shelf skill players that the Badger D will be pushed harder than it's been pushed all year.
What To Watch Out For: The scary part about the 83 points the Badgers put on Indiana was that John Clay was out with a minor knee injury. He ran three times for 52 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt in the 2008 Badger loss to the Wolverines, and he ripped off 151 yards and a score last year in the 45-24 win. Now he's questionable at best, forcing the slippery-running combination of Montee Ball and James White to carry the ground game. However, Wisconsin will try to pull this off by getting the passing game going against the depleted Wolverine secondary, meaning Scott Tolzien could go ballistic. Terrific in last year's win, throwing for 240 yards and four touchdowns, it'll be up to him to keep the chains moving and keep Denard Robinson on the sidelines.
What Will Happen: The team with the ball last will win. Wisconsin is a good, sound defensive team that's about to get dragged down in a wide-open street fight. It's not going to be Illinois-Michigan, but it'll be a shootout with plenty of home runs and great offensive plays after great offensive plays. The Wolverines will unleash all the weapons, and Tate Forcier, who'll step in after Robinson gets banged up, will lead the way to thrilling game-winning drive.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 47 … Wisconsin 45 … Line: Wisconsin -5
Must See Rating: Casino Jack – 5 … Avatar: Extended Collector's Edition -1 … 4
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Illinois (5-5) at Northwestern (7-3) in Chicago Nov. 20, 3:30, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … It's a gimmick game, moving from the perfectly fine Ryan Field for the dumpy, but historic, Wrigley Field in one of the more interesting novelties of the college football season. Beyond the flak over the six-inch gap between the end zone and one of the slightly-padded brick walls, and beyond all the pomp and circumstance, this game actually matters. Northwestern has already sealed up bowl eligibility, but now it's shooting for a New Year's Day game and a possible top four finish in the conference with this showdown and a date at Wisconsin to close. For Illinois, what was supposed to be a fun week and a rivalry game in a once-in-a-lifetime setting is all about business after blowing the layup against Minnesota last week. After losing in triple overtime against Michigan and passing on the free space that is the Gophers, the Illini have to win this week to become bowl eligible or the date at Fresno State in two weeks will be panic time.
Why Illinois Might Win: Dan Persa. Talk all you want about how great Cam Newton is and how special Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck might be, but it could be argued that no player in college football is more valuable to his team than Persa, who was everything for the Wildcat offense. Not only was he a blood-and-guts baller, who got battered around all game long against Iowa but kept getting up on the way to a thrilling win, but he led the team in rushing, was ninth in the nation in total offense, 12th in passing efficiency, and was the only positive in the attack. After suffering a ruptured Achilles following a little hop after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass, he's out for the year and the Wildcats don't have anyone to pick up the slack. It's not like Northwestern was putting up points in bunches anyway, failing to score over 30 in Big Ten play, while Illinois has hung 33 points or more on the board in five of its last six games. The Wildcats have faced one team with a dangerous running quarterback this year, and Vanderbilt's Larry Smith threw for 240 yards and the Commodores ran for 192 yards and two scores. Purdue was able to get the ground game going when QB Rob Henry got loose, and Penn State pounded away with Evan Royster.
Why Northwestern Might Win: Dan Persa. Illinois is taking this game ultra-seriously because of what happened last week, but there might be a wee bit of a letdown factor assuming Northwestern is dead in the water without its star. The Wildcat defense might have had problems against an inspired Penn State team trying to get Joe Paterno his 400th win, but it has been solid at times when needed, holding firm drive after drive against Iowa and doing a great job of shutting down the Indiana passing game until late. There's no mystery to what Illinois does, and while the Illini might try to get the passing game going a bit against a Wildcat secondary that gives up yards in bunches, it'll be all about the ground game and Northwestern should be able to lock down on Mikel Leshoure to keep him from tearing off big yards. Every time Northwestern has had problems against the run it has been because of something slightly quirky, but it's a solid defensive front that might bend, but doesn't often break.
What To Watch Out For: How was Northwestern able to survive when Brett Basanez graduated. Mike Kafka took over and was better. How was the offense able to survive when Kafka graduated? Persa took over and was better. Who's next? While not the runner that Persa is, 6-6, 235-pound redshirt freshman Evan Watkins has a much bigger arm and is the far more dangerous passing option. He was a great recruit for the program and will be groomed for the starting job over the next few years, and now it's his time to show what he can do on a big stage. He might not be Persa, but he can wing it.
What Will Happen: Both teams will be fired up considering the atmosphere and the venue, but Illinois actually needs this game. Watkins will show flashes, but Illinois will get back on track after the miserable loss to Minnesota with the ground game controlling things throughout.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 34 ... Northwestern 23 … Line: Illinois -7.5
Must See Rating: Casino Jack – 5 … Avatar: Extended Collector's Edition -1 … 3
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- Nov. 20 (Ohio State -Iowa)