2012 Fearless Predictions
Week 1 - Big Ten Part 2
@CFBNews | E-mail Us
- FREE EXPERT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SELECTIONS
- Boise State at Michigan State
- Miami Univ. at Ohio State, & More
- Ohio at Penn State, & More
- Southern Miss at Nebraska, & More
- Northern Iowa at Wisconsin, & More
- Michigan vs. Alabama
Western Michigan (0-0) at Illinois (0-0) Sept. 1, 12:00, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal: Last season, Western Michigan almost pulled off the shocker in a 23-20 battle that could have gone either way. The Broncos might have been taken lightly, but that might not be the case this time around. Even if Illinois is fully prepared and ready for the high-powered WMU attack it might not be ready – the Broncos are that good.
Quarterback Alex Carder is a statistical machine leading a veteran team with 14 starters returning. The offense that led the MAC in passing should be every bit as dangerous, while the defense has just enough talent returning to be better. This is the toughest game on the Bronco schedule with other BCS non-conference games against Minnesota and UConn, so with a win in Champaign the expectations will go through the roof.
New Illinois coach Tim Beckman has to get out to a good start with a trip to Arizona State up next. The former Toledo head man had the offense ramped up in one of the wildest games of 2011, a 66-63 Rocket win with over 800 yards of total Rocket offense and 548 passing yards and seven touchdown passes from Carder. With seven returning starters to each side of the ball, the Illini is supposed to be ready to handle a tough MAC team like WMU. That might be easier said than done.
Why Western Michigan Might Win: The Bronco offensive line should be able to handle the Illinois pass rush. With four starters returning up front including a pair of decent starting tackles, the veterans are in place to keep Michael Buchanan and tackle Akeem Spence under wraps. If Carder gets time, he can be deadly on short to midrange passes and take what the Illini gives him. On the other side, does Illinois have the offense to keep up the pace if the Broncos get hot? After going into the tank over the second half of last season, the Illini O has to prove it can put points on the board.
Why Illinois Might Win: Do the Illini have the defensive backs in place to handle everything Carder is about to throw at them? Three starters are back in the secondary and the line should be able to generate a consistent pass rush. The pass defense finished third in the nation last season, but that’s because it faced a slew of mediocre passing games. Illinois gave up more yards to Carder than everyone else – allowing 306 and four scores – but was fantastic against everyone else, including Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.
What To Watch Out For: There’s going to be a rotation at running back for Illinois, but redshirt freshman Josh Ferguson appeared to answer the questions about the position this offseason showing off good all-around ability as both a runner and a receiver. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he’s not all that big, and he didn’t get much time last season running 52 yards on 14 carries while catching two passes for 14 yards before suffering a hamstring injury. Quick and extremely good in the open field, he’ll be used in a variety of ways and will be a good three-down playmaker.
What Will Happen: Illinois will have to pull out all the stops to come up with a tough win over the Broncos for a second straight season. Nathan Scheelhaase won’t outgun Carder, but he’ll make enough plays with both his legs and his arm, and the Illini secondary will come through on just enough key downs to get by.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 27 … Western Michigan 23
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Illinois -10; O/U: 50.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 3
Ohio (0-0) at Penn State (0-0) Sept. 1, 12:00, ESPN
Here’s The Deal: Yes, Penn State really is going to be playing football this season. The players are going to run out of the tunnel, over 100,000 fans are going to be screaming and cheering, and for a few hours, Penn State gets to look like life is normal on a September Saturday. Of course, this will be one of the most emotional games of the college football season in Game One after the death of Joe Paterno and under NCAA sanctions that should hamstring the program for the next five years. There might not be a bowl or a Big Ten title to play for, but there’s a lot to care about against the Bobcats.
Will Penn State be able to function like a normal Penn State team again? Will the adrenaline and focus be ramped up more than usual for a full 60 minutes? Even if the Nittany Lions are excellent this year getting past the defections and distractions, it’s still going to be a major fight to get past one of the MAC’s best teams. Ohio is among the favorites to win the East with 15 returning starters and a thrilling quarterback in Tyler Tettleton who’ll potentially give the solid Penn State defense fits. If it’s possible to take away all the other factors and separate the various factors, it should be a great football game.
Why Ohio Might Win: Will Penn State have any semblance of an offense? New head coach Bill O’Brien might have a strong offensive might and he could find some sort of a spark from somewhere, but it’s going to be tough to manufacture any production from the nation’s 110th ranked scoring attack from last year without top running back Silas Redd or No. 1 receiver Justin Brown. Even if those two were around it wasn’t going to be a given that offense was going to work, and now the O could be absolutely stagnant with those two transferring. The Bobcat defense was decent throughout last season and should be terrific in the back seven – Penn State’s woeful passing game isn’t going to suddenly blow up.
Why Penn State Might Win: Okay, throw in the emotion factor. Football always comes down to who can block and tackle the best, but the Nittany Lions should be frothing at the mouth with the emphasis finally just on football again – at least for a few short hours. Everyone gets fired up in the opening week, but this should be something completely different. The linebacking corps is among the best in America and should be able to keep Tettleton under wraps when he likes to get moving from the pocket. Ohio can throw efficiently and effectively, but everything stars with the ground game that won’t go anywhere against this front seven.
What To Watch Out For: Can quarterback Matt McGloin be enough of a factor to move the Penn State offense? Rob Bolden took off for LSU and Paul Jones is a decent prospect, but it’s the veteran McGloin who has to make everyone around him better, or at least functional. A reasonable case could be made that he’s the worst starting quarterback for any BCS conference team, and now it’s his job to prove everyone wrong. First and foremost, he has to be a calm, cool senior leader, but that’s not really his attitude or make-up. He’s emotional and fiery, but with the defense doing most of the heavy lifting, it will be his job to keep the chains moving and not make any big mistakes.
What Will Happen: It’s not going to be pretty in any way. Ohio isn’t going to make life easy for the Nittany Lions in what they might hope is a coronation, but the Penn State defense will set up a few easy scores and will come up with a big hold late.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 20 … Ohio 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Penn State -6; O/U: 44.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 4
Iowa (0-0) vs. Northern Illinois (0-0) in Chicago. Sept. 1, 3:30, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal: Northern Illinois was supposed to have a little bit of an advantage in Chicago last year against Chicago, getting the game on a neutral field relatively close to home. While the Huskies came up with a rare pick of Russell Wilson, the offense didn’t do anything in a 49-7 loss. The hope is that this year’s Solider Field game against Iowa is a wee bit different and the team can play up to its MAC championship form.
NIU gets eight starters back on defense but loses heart-and-soul quarterback Chandler Harnish and seven other starters from the nation’s No. 11 offense. Even with all the problems and concerns, Iowa is the big hurdle to overcome. If the team is good enough to beat the Hawkeyes, it’ll be good enough to beat Kansas, have no problems against Army, and should roll through the MAC until going to Western Michigan in late October. But Iowa is looking for a hot start, too.
The Hawkeyes have a ton of holes at running back and defensive line, but quarterback James Vandenberg is a burgeoning star and there’s an attitude. No one is picking Iowa to do much of anything, but with a win this week and over in-state rival Iowa State next week, there’s a solid chance of going 5-0 before getting an off-week to prepare for Texas A&M.
Why Iowa Might Win: Can the Northern Illinois offensive line generate a push? The Iowa run defense was a problem throughout last season and it doesn’t look appreciably better coming into the season. The linebacking corps will be decent, but the line has to replace three starters up front. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, NIU is undergoing a total overhaul on the offensive line that finished tenth in the nation in sacks allowed. Only one starter returned to the line, and senior guard Logan Pegram was knocked out with a broken leg. Considering the Huskies are breaking in a new starting quarterback and are hoping for North Carolina transfer Jamal Womble to be ready to take over at running back, not having a ready-to-roll line is going to be a problem early on.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: The Huskie offense might be a bit of a question mark, but the defense should be able to come out roaring. The line might be the best in the MAC with Sean Progar leading the way, while the linebacking corps is expected to shine with a little bit of time. Considering Iowa has nothing to count on with the running game after a shocking array of problems, NIU should be able to load up and stuff the ground attack without much of an issue. If the line can get to Vandenberg and disrupt the passing attack, the Iowa offense probably won’t go anywhere.
What To Watch Out For: Marcus Binns. De’Andre Johnson. Jordan Canzeri. Barkley Hill. From knee injuries to Hill and Canzeri, to kicking Johnson off the team, Iowa hasn’t had any luck finding a healthy and productive running back to help carry the load. For the moment the main man will be Damon Bullock, a 6-0, 195-pound sophomore who got a little bit of work as a true freshman running ten times for 20 yards and catching a pass for 11 more. More than anything else he has been a good scout-teamer and practice star, and now he’ll be a quick, darting back who’ll get every chance to show what he can do.
What Will Happen: Northern Illinois will bring the effort and will rebuild in a hurry after rolling through the MAC last season, but it won’t happen quite yet. Iowa might have its holes and it might have some major flaws, but it will get through the opener with Vandenberg coming up with a big passing day against the suspect Huskie secondary.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 27 … Northern Illinois 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Iowa -10; O/U: 50
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 3