Week 3 Big Ten - Wash-Illinois & More, Part 2

Posted Sep 12, 2013

Week 3 - Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Washington at Illinois & More, Part 2

- Ohio State at California | UCLA at Nebraska
- Wisconsin at Arizona State
- Akron at Michigan & More, Part 1 | Wash. at Illinois & More, Part 2 

UCF (2-0) at Penn State (2-0) Sept. 14, 6:00, Big Ten Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: In a week flush with can't-miss matchups, UCF-Penn State is likely to get lost in the wash. Too bad, too, because it has the potential to be a sneaky-good game, with plenty of meaning to both programs. UCF has started its debut season in the American with lopsided wins over Akron and Florida International by a combined score of 76-7. A win in Happy Valley could potentially boost the stock of the Knights, who've struggled to gain much of a national foothold. The Nittany Lions have used the backs of Syracuse and Eastern Michigan to rise up to the 2-0 mark, and they're now looking for their first 3-0 start in four years. The quarterback battle between UCF's Blake Bortles and Penn State Christian Hackenberg features kids with NFL arms and NFL futures.
Why UCF Might Win: This is the best defense that Penn State has faced in 2013. The Knights have yielded just seven points over the first two games, while the Nittany Lions have been a little jittery and inconsistent offensively. The Lions have been atrocious on third downs, converting just 2-of-26, which has heaped pressure on the rookie Hackenberg. UCF has a habit of congregating to the ball, with LB Terrance Plummer often leading the charge.
Why Penn State Might Win: UCF is at its best when it achieves offensive balance, but it won't come easily at Beaver Stadium. This is by far the toughest test so far for Bortles and RB Storm Johnson. The Lions have allowed just two offensive touchdowns, including none last week. The Knights must solve a D that features All-Big Ten-caliber performers at each level, from DaQuan Jones and Deoin Barnes up front to LB Glenn Carson and S Adrian Amos in the back seven.
Who To Watch Out For: Who can slow down Penn State WR Allen Robinson, who leads the team with 14 catches for 262 yards and two scores? Corners Jordan Ozerities and Jacoby Glenn are going to need to safety help.

- An average UCF O-line figures to have its share of problems with the Penn State front. That inside-outside combo of Jones and Barnes, respectively, will force Bortles to use his underrated foot speed.

- Young Lion corners Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams have played real well so far, but they'll have their hands full on Saturday. UCF is very deep on the outside, with veteran receivers Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton and Breshad Perriman.

- Penn State has allowed seven sacks, the product of a young quarterback and an iffy line. Fortunately, none of the UCF starters has a sack so far in 2013.
What Will Happen: Tight, low-scoring and up for grabs in the final quarter. This promises to be a nip-and-tuck game throughout that hinges on the little things, such as field position or an untimely turnover. Penn State will hold serve at home on the strength of its defense and a clutch kick from Sam Ficken.
Prediction: Penn State 23 … UCF 21
Line: Penn State -5 – O/U: 51
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) … 3

Washington (1-0) at Illinois (2-0) Sept. 14, 6:00, Big Ten Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It may not be UCLA-Nebraska, but Washington travelling to Soldier Field in Chicago sets the stage for a pretty darn good Week 3 matchup between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. The Huskies were one of the stars of the opening weekend, spanking then-ranked Boise State, 38-6, in a game dubbed by many as a toss-up. U-Dub is now ranked, but if it doesn't deliver an appropriate encore, that rout of the Broncos will quickly be forgotten. Illinois has been a mild surprise through two weeks. After slogging through an excuse-me win over Southern Illinois, the Illini shockingly lit up Cincinnati, 45-17. With a similar effort this week, head coach Tim Beckman is off the hot seat, and Illinois becomes a threat to play in the postseason.
Why Washington Might Win: The Huskies looked all grown up in Week 1, from the execution of the offense to the toughness of the D. They weren't flawless, but they were close. The offense will have an edge on a sketchy Illinois defense, especially now that All-American TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins has served his suspension. If QB Keith Price can continue to channel his sophomore self, it'll not only spark the passing game, but it'll also create more space for All-Pac-12 RB Bishop Sankey. A very young Illini secondary has given up 649 yards through the air in two weeks.
Why Illinois Might Win: Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase suddenly looks very comfortable running the offense, a credit to the work being done by new coordinator Bill Cubit. And a comfortable Scheelhaase means the backs and receivers instantly become more dangerous. The running game showed life against the Bearcats, and four receivers already have at least 100 yards in receptions. This unit is liable to keep getting better with more snaps that it gets in the new offense.
Who To Watch Out For: It won't take long for Sankey to get formally introduced to linebackers Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim, Illinois' top tacklers and two best defenders.

-U-Dub defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is determined to pressure Scheelhaase, forcing him to throw on the move. If unsuccessful, the Illini will throw for more than 300 yards for a third consecutive game.

- Price should have success against the Illini defensive backfield. Not only does he have Seferian-Jenkins and WR Kasen Williams back, but Illinois has not mounted much of a pass rush this month.

- This is a huge game for the Illinois O-line. Washington presents all kinds of challenges, like NT Danny Shelton and LB Shaq Thompson, which will need to be neutralized.
What Will Happen: Who's the real deal, and who's living a lie? It's early, but this is a pivotal game for both Illinois and Washington. The Illini is proving it can score, but can it stop a potent offense, such as the one heading to the Windy City this weekend? The Huskies have the better defense and a few more offensive weapons, the difference in a game that promises to entertain with big plays from wire-to-wire.
Prediction: Washington 38 … Illinois 31
Line: Washington -10 o/u: 64
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) … 3

Western Michigan (0-2) at Northwestern (2-0) Sept. 14, 9:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: This is Northwestern's final FBS opponent before Ohio State comes to town on Oct. 5, and it's the final chance to get everything in place after a fantastic start. The young Wildcat secondary still has room for improvement and going against a weaker opponent should demonstrate if the unit has the talent to hang with the upper echelon of the Big Ten. The dual-quarterback system continues to work in Evanston and the rise of the running game despite Venric Mark's injury is a storyline to continue to watch. For Western Michigan, P.J. Fleck is the youngest head coach in FBS, and that doesn't seem to be a plus as the Broncos are facing a crisis after losing at home to Nicholls State last week. Fleck will need to keep his players' morale high after a tough start to the season, and a huge upset win over the Wildcats would do it.
Why Western Michigan Might Win: Corey Davis has been a stud for the Broncos as a pass catcher, reeling in 16 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Western Michigan also has a good dual-running back system with Dareyon Chance and Brian Fields both eclipsing 100 yards last week, which should allow the offense to control the clock and keep their defense off the field. The defense has done an excellent job at getting off the field on third down, limiting offenses to a 33 percent conversion rate.
Why Northwestern Might Win: Neither Cal nor Syracuse was able to stop the Northwestern offense for an extended period in the past two weeks. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian make the two-quarterback system work and the passing game has finally found its legs this season through two weeks. The Northwestern defense has become a takeaway machine, leading the nation with seven interceptions through two weeks, and the defensive line has done a great job at getting to the quarterback and disrupting his rhythm.
Who To Watch Out For: It's impossible to separate Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian when discussing the Northwestern offense, at least when Colter is healthy. The dual-quarterback system has magically worked for the Wildcats and both quarterbacks played really well against Syracuse, combining to complete 30 of 37 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Colter also added 87 yards and a score with his feet.
- Western Michigan quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen was knocked out of the Michigan State game and has struggled early this season. If the Broncos want to pull off the stunner, Van Tubbergen must be at the top of his game: limiting the turnovers, being more accurate as a passer and incorporating more people not named Corey Davis into the offense.
What Will Happen: Northwestern's offense will run roughshod over Western Michigan's defense as the pure speed and athleticism will be too much for the Broncos. Western Michigan will score early, but it will likely be the only time they sniff the end zone in the first three quarters. Northwestern will come up with at least three interceptions and Western Michigan's offensive line will struggle with the power and athleticism of the Wildcats front seven, resulting in many quarterback hurries and a couple of sacks. The Wildcats will empty the bench in the fourth quarter and that allows the Broncos to score one more time before the game ends.
Prediction: Northwestern 48 … Western Michigan 14
Line: Northwestern -31 o/u: 59
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) ... 2

Notre Dame (1-1) at Purdue (1-1) Sept. 14, 8:00, ABC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It always seems like Purdue should be a big rival for Notre Dame considering the proximity and familiarity, but it's been a bit one-sided lately. The Boilermakers seem to give the Irish a hard time, but lose, like last year in a 20-17 fight. Purdue has won just once in the series since 2004, and after a rocky start with a blowout loss to a Cincinnati team that got destroyed by Illinois, and a way-too-close win over an Indiana State team that was obliterated by Indiana, it's going to take a massive effort for new head coach Darrell Hazell to come up with something special. With Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State up next, life isn't going to get much easier.

On the flip side, this is the eye of the storm for Notre Dame after a fun loss – and it sort of was fun, as losses go – at Michigan and with Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC up next. The defense had a rough time dealing with the Wolverines last week, but the offense has been explosive, efficient and effective. This needs to be a breather, and if there's any reasonable hope of getting into a BCS game, this can't be a hiccup.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Purdue offense can't seem to find its footing. The passing attack is bad, the running game worse, and there's no flow or rhythm so far. The big issue is third down, struggling like made to keep the chains moving and turn drives into points. At the moment, Purdue doesn't have any one thing – like a Devin Gardner's mobility – that the Notre Dame defense can't stop. The Irish had a nightmare of a time stopping the Wolverines from keeping the offense moving, while the other side of the ball was able to hit on third down after third down and fight back late in the game. The Boilermaker secondary is about to get have a very, very bad day.

Why Purdue Might Win: The defense hasn't been bad, even with the problems in the opener against Cincinnati. The Bearcats moved the ball and were good on short-to-midrange passes, and the running game was solid helped by the mobility of QB Munchie Legaux, but for the most part, the problems were from a Boilermaker offense that struggled more than because of a defense that couldn't hold up. At some point, the Purdue passing attack should be able to get going once everyone adapts to the pro-style attack, but as long as it doesn't screw up, and as long the terrific punting game can keep the field tilted toward the Irish side, there's a chance to keep this interesting.

Who To Watch Out For: The NFL types will be focusing on the defensive interior with Notre Dame's Louis Nix and Purdue's Bruce Gaston. Nix hasn't quite gummed up the works to make the run defense a rock, but he certainly hasn't been bad. His worth isn't measured by stats; he's the one everything works around. On the other side, Gaston has done a little of everything with 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He can be an anchor, a pass rusher or a run stopper, and he's playing up to his billing and potential.

- It was overshadowed because of the play of Devin Gardner, but Tommy Rees was terrific in the loss to Michigan. He threw two picks, but he could hardly be blamed for the second one, while throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He's spreading the ball around well and he's moving the offense.

- Purdue needs to find one thing or one guy on offense that rocks. QB Rob Henry hasn't been able to find his consistency, but it's not like he's getting any help. No one's making things happen.

- With the good start from Rees has come a nice first few games from TJ Jones. The pressure was on to become a bigger factor as a No. 1 receiver, especially with TE Tyler Eifert off to the NFL, and Jones has stepped up so far with 15 catches for 232 yards and a score.

What Will Happen: The Irish will score on its first few drives and will coast from there. The defense will start to look a little more like the defense of last year, partly because the Purdue offense will continue to struggle.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45 … Purdue 16
Line: Notre Dame -20.5 o/u: 52
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) ... 3

- Ohio State at California | UCLA at Nebraska
- Wisconsin at Arizona State
- Akron at Michigan & More, Part 1 | Wash. at Illinois & More, Part 2