2012 Fearless Predictions
Week 1 - Big Ten, Part 4
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- 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
Northern Iowa (0-0) vs. Wisconsin (0-0) Sept. 1, 3:30, BTN
Here's The Deal: As cupcake dates against FCS teams go, Wisconsin is challenging itself a bit against a good UNI team that went 10-3 last season and came dangerously close to beating Iowa State in the opener. The Panthers have a little bit of rebuilding to do on defense and don't do anything special on offense, but it's a well-coached, sound team that doesn't beat itself and usually finds ways to win. There's a date with Iowa coming up in two weeks, but for the ninth-ranked FCS team in the country, a win over the Badgers would be even bigger on a national scale.
The schedule seems like it should shape up nicely for the two-time defending Big Ten champions. Wisconsin doesn't exactly have a rough non-conference slate for a team of its caliber – with the toughest matchup coming up next at Oregon State and a decent Utah State team to follow – and with a decent overall slate with the most dangerous road game at Nebraska, this could finally be the year when the BCS championship is in play. First things first, though, the Badgers have to come out sharp and strong. It's time to start flexing some muscle and be intimidating right away.
Why Northern Iowa Might Win: Can the running game work? The Panther offense wasn't great, but it has a slew of good veterans coming back and with a nice runner to work around in David Johnson. He finished fourth in the voting for the Jerry Rice award after cranking out 822 yards and nine scores as a freshman, and he has the potential to come up with a strong game and a great season with the speed and skills to break off a few big runs. Throw in top kick returner and veteran back Carlos Anderson, and there are a few dangerous players to worry about.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: UNI doesn't have its key playmaker, quarterback Tirrell Rinne, anymore. The Panther defensive front isn't going to do much to get into the backfield and it's going to struggle against the better running teams – obviously the Badgers won't have any problems pounding away on the mediocre. UNI was able to get by last season because of turnover margin, finishing 11th among FCS teams forcing 30 turnovers and giving it away just 16 times. UNI was good, Wisconsin was better finishing fourth in the nation in turnover margin. The Badger backs aren't going to give up the ball, but the interceptions have to be kept to a minimum from ��
What To Watch Out For: UW quarterback Danny O'Brien. 6-3, 215-pound junior from Maryland who looked like the next big thing as a freshman throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns with just eight interceptions, he lost his magic throwing ten picks with just seven touchdown passes while completing only 58% of his throws last season. His problems were a function of the team's issues as much as his own, but he wasn't the steady leader the team needed him to be. Now he'll get the same break that Russell Wilson had – he doesn't have to do everything by himself. His job will be to hand the ball off, keep the mistakes to a minimum and hit the third down throws.
What Will Happen: Montee Ball is back, O'Brien will be great, and the Badger defense will drop a hammer on a good UNI team that won't get the offense going.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 41 … Northern Iowa 10
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) No Line; O/U: No Line
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 1.5
Indiana State (0-0) at Indiana (0-0) Sept. 1, 8:00, BTN
Here's The Deal: These aren't the same old Sycamores. After going 1-10 in 2009, ISU has come up with two straight 6-5 seasons and now has built things up enough to be ranked in the top 25 of both FCS polls. The rushing offense should be solid and there's plenty of promise and potential on defense, but it's going to take something big to get by an Indiana team that's going to take this game very, very seriously. The Hoosiers are 3-0 all-time in the series, but last year under Kevin Wilson managed just one win over South Carolina State in an ugly 1-11 campaign. It was a year of rebuilding and attempting to improve for down the road, but Wilson wants and needs to win right away. With winnable games against UMass and Ball State up next, 3-0 is expected, but first IU has to show that it's capable of looking sharp against an inferior team.
Why Indiana State Might Win: Indiana is going to struggle early on – again – to stop the run. There might be veterans up front, and the linebacking corps might be the strength of the D, but after finishing 118th in the nation against the run and doing next to nothing to get to the quarterback, the Sycamore backfield should have time to operate. Shakir Bell is one of the FCS's top running backs coming off a huge season rushing for and FCS-leading 152 yards per game with 1,670 yards and 15 scores including four 200-yard performances. He's fast and talented, and he's good enough to carry the offense by himself and keep the Hoosiers on their heels.
Why Indiana Might Win: Can the Hoosiers get their offense moving? Indiana State's defense isn't going to be steady up front, and it could have issues with a veteran receiving corps and decent-looking young backfield that appears to be stronger and crisper coming out of the summer. Most teams would look at a game like this as a nice tune-up and a chance to ease into the season, but Indiana will come out ready to go after all the problems of last season. There won't be any looking ahead to UMass – Wilson won't allow it. Indiana State is about to get the full four-quarter treatment.
What To Watch Out For: If the Hoosiers are going to take a big step forward, it's going to start with sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson. It's his offense and his time to make a statement, and it starts against the Sycamores. He took over in the second half of the season and did what he could for the woeful attack completing 57% of his throws for 937 yards and three touchdowns with six interceptions. The 6-0, 183-pounder isn't a bomber, but he's extremely quick and he's growing into the leadership role.
What Will Happen: Indiana State is a good FCS team, and it will hang around for a quarter, but the Hoosiers are going to look night-and-day better than they did to kick things off last year. It's not going to be time to start talking Big Ten title, but IU will look stronger.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 38 … Indiana State 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) None; O/U: None
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 1.5