Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Sept. 15
Michigan's Ryan Mallett & ND's Jimmy Clausen
Michigan's Ryan Mallett & ND's Jimmy Clausen
Posted Sep 12, 2007

Go ahead and admit it. Of all the big showdowns in week three, you're most looking forward to seeing what unfolds when Notre Dame faces Michigan. If nothing else, it's round one between superstar freshmen Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett. Check out the previews, predictions and breakdowns in the Week Three Fearless Predictions.

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

Big Ten Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17    

How are the picks so far? SU: 19-3 ... ATS: 7-8-1

Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2

Big Ten Game of the Week

Notre Dame (0-2) at Michigan (0-2)  3:30 PM ABC
Why to Watch: While everyone loves the big game, and Michigan and Notre Dame have played some classics over the years with some of the most important showdowns in college football history, this year's matchup might be the most interesting yet. In the same way you don't want to watch the car crash, but can't seem to turn away, this game has now become a battle to see which all-time great program has fallen the furthest, and which coaching staff is on the hotter seat. These two haven't just lost their first two games of the season, they've done it with flair, and now it's desperation time. That means this game won't just have the pressure of being NOTRE DAME VS. MICHIGAN, it'll be about survival, and trying to jump-start a season. It's still early, and there's still plenty of time for each team to turn things around, but for the loser, its season will have the potential to go from disastrous to a whole other level of bad. Notre Dame has to face six likely bowl-bound teams in a row after the trip to Ann Arbor, and Michigan has to deal with a strong Penn State next week in the Big Ten opener.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: The general sense seems to be that Notre Dame had to play two elite level teams in Georgia Tech and Penn State, who are each likely to be in the top ten at some point, while there was no honor in Michigan's loss to Appalachian State. Oregon, while good, isn't seen as strong as the two opponents the Irish have faced, so while things might have been ugly so far, there's a chance the Yellow Jackets and Nittany Lions will do that do just about everyone. If the Irish offense ever wanted a jump start, this would be the time against a Michigan secondary that's been a step slow and way out of position time and again in the first two games. As long as Jimmy Clausen gets time to throw, he should be able to fire away at will against the nation's second worst pass efficiency defense. Fortunately for Michigan ...
Why Michigan Might Win: ... the Irish offensive line hasn't been remotely close to stopping a pass rush so far, and that's led to the quarterbacks being wildly inefficient. Notre Dame has allowed a whopping 15 sacks in two games, and while the Wolverine defense has been miserable, there's been a little bit of a pass rush. Michigan simply isn't playing up to its talent level, but it actually has the horses in place to turn the production up a few notches and start winning, while Notre Dame just plain stinks right now. Keeping it basic, which is what the Wolverines need to do right now, they should be able to pound the ball as much as they want to against an Irish line that's totally incapable of shedding blocks. The Wolverine offensive line should dominate from the star.
Who to Watch: The future is now for the two storied programs as true freshman quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett square off in what many talent scouts think could be the first of many showdowns that'll span the course of long NFL careers. Thrown to the wolves last week, Clausen wasn't horrible, considering the Nittany Lion defense and revved up crowd. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 144 yards with an interception, and while those numbers aren't going to get him into any hall of fame, they're better than they appear to be considering he rarely got time to throw and didn't have any running game to help the cause. For Mallett, a huge 6-6, 250-pound bomber, all he has to do is hand off to Mike Hart, not throw interceptions, and occasionally air it out to loosen things up. With Chad Henne out for at least three weeks with a knee injury, Mallett will have time to make the job his, just like Henne was able to do as a freshman. If Michigan wins, and if Mallett plays reasonably well, he could be seen as the spark who kicked off a new season.
What Will Happen: Mallett has Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Jake Long to help ease him into the job. Clausen has ... Armando Allen? David Grimes? Actually, Allen and Grimes are dangerous speedsters who have the potential to rip apart the Michigan defense, but there is a big production gap between the Michigan skill players and Notre Dame's. Michigan had problems with mobile quarterbacks over the last two weeks, so look for Demetrius Jones to see time here and there. It won't matter. This is the week Michigan gets back on track in an ugly game for both teams.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 31 ... Notre Dame 17
... Line: Michigan -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 4

SEC Saturday, Sept. 15

Buffalo (1-1) at Penn State (2-0)  12:00 PM Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: With Michigan tanking, Ohio State looking average on offense, and Wisconsin having problems against UNLV, the Nittany Lions are quickly looking like the bad boys in the Big Ten. Of course, it's easy to look strong against Florida International and Notre Dame, but considering the problems that top teams are having all across the country, Penn State fans won't complain. Buffalo is coming off an impressive 42-7 win performance against Temple, which might turn out to be the stepping-stone the program needs for the rest of the MAC season. Head coach Turner Gill doesn't quite have the same team he led when he last visited Happy Valley as quarterback of a great 1982 Nebraska squad, but his UB team plays tough and won't quit even if the Nittany Lions get up early.
Why Buffalo Might Win: Sandwich game. Penn State is coming off the emotionally charged White Out game against Notre Dame, and has Michigan coming up. Considering the way the the Wolverines have struggled, you can't blame the Nittany Lions for thinking about starting out hot. Buffalo plays a little bit of defense with a decent defensive front, so if Penn State isn't fired up early on, it could have problems running the ball and will have a few problems protecting QB Anthony Morelli. UB gets into the backfield, and the offense doesn't make a lot of mistakes.
Why Penn State Might Win: Despite the explosion against Temple last week, Buffalo doesn't have the offense to keep up the pace if Penn State gets out to an early lead, and it certainly doesn't have the secondary to keep the PSU receiving corps in check. This is the same Buffalo pass defense that made the Rutgers passing game look like Hawaii. As long as Morelli gets a little time, he should be able to throw the deep ball at will. 
Who to Watch: Buffalo will never be a big-time offensive juggernaut this year, but it could be consistent as long as it realizes its limitations and doesn't have to push too much. There won't be much of a deep passing game, but junior QB Drew Willy can be strong on short to midrange passes. A veteran in the system, he had one of his finest days last week with a 20 of 22, 190-yard, two touchdown day, with an interception, against Temple. He can't panic against the active PSU linebacking corps, and he has to keep the chains moving.
What Will Happen: Penn State will wake up by the second quarter and put it away on two big drives, but this will be a go-through-the-motions performance before getting to Michigan.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 37 ... Buffalo 10
... Line: Penn State -34
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1.5

Central Michigan
(1-1) at Purdue (2-0)  12:00 PM ESPN2
Why to Watch: In a meeting of the We Hung 52 On Toledo club, these two should put on a fun offensive show that could turn into the most exciting Big Ten game of the week. Purdue has scored 52 points in each of its first two games, blowing out Toledo and Eastern Illinois, and with Notre Dame and Minnesota ahead, it has a chance for a huge start with a win this week. The nation's 13th ranked offense has all the parts working and needs to prove it can keep the momentum going against a top MAC team that's looking to bounce all the way back from a season opening 52-7 bombing against Kansas. New head coach Butch Jones might have had problems in his debut, but the Chippewas got the win they needed against Toledo to open the MAC season, and now want to make a national statement, while throwing more of a scare into the rest of the MAC.
Why Central Michigan Might Win: Purdue's defense has been tremendous so far, but CMU could have the offensive balance to dictate the tempo as long as it doesn't make a slew of mistakes and as long as the running game is established early on. Toledo was able to run the ball a bit on the Boilermakers, but had to abandon ship once the defense started to struggle and once the quarterbacks had to press to try to keep up the pace. As long as Purdue doesn't jump out to a big lead, CMU should be able to control things if Ontario Sneed runs like he did last week, running for 168 yards and three touchdowns against Toledo. QB Dan LeFevour isn't going to panic on third downs and should be able to keep the chains moving. While the ball-control offense should work in theory ...
Why Purdue Might Win: ... it all might go out the window if the CMU secondary struggles like it did in the first two games. This might be a veteran, talented Chippewa secondary, but it hasn't even been close over the first two weeks with the Kansas quarterbacks combining to complete 26 of 35 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions, and Toledo completing 26 of 42 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Drooling all over the floor during film study is ...
Who to Watch: ... Purdue QB Curtis Painter, who's putting up huge numbers for the second straight year. Helped by a tremendous receiving corps and a good enough running game to take the pressure off, the junior has been phenomenal over the first two weeks with ten touchdown passes and no interceptions. To beat CMU, Painter doesn't have to force things and he won't have to do everything by himself. As long as he makes quick decisions and reads the right matchups early on, CMU won't have enough in the secondary to adequately cover all the weapons.
What Will Happen: The Kansas win over Central Michigan might foreshadow what Purdue can do. The Boilermakers have the same offensive balance, only with better personnel. No, the Chippewas aren't going to get annihilated like they were in Lawrence, but they won't be able to stop Painter and the passing attack. Purdue will try to establish the running game first, and then will realize how easy it'll be to throw.
CFN Prediction:
Purdue 45 ... Central Michigan 30 ... Line: Purdue -19
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2.5

The Citadel
(2-0) at Wisconsin (2-0)  12:00 Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: O.K. Wisconsin, it's time to start looking like that top five team you're supposed to be. The Badgers struggled, way, way too much with UNLV, needing a big late drive and a diving Tyler Donovan touchdown run to finally get the lead and put the game away. With Iowa coming up next week, the Badgers need to start jelling right now, but they might have a tougher task than expected against a Citadel team that won its first two games by a combined score of 111 to 14. No, the Bulldogs won't win, but they might be pesky for at least a half.
Why Citadel Might Win: Badger fans freaked out by what they saw against UNLV last week might see a mirror image this week as The Citadel bring the same kind of spread offense, but with the ability to throw deeper. The offense is second in the FCS in scoring and first in scoring defense. This is an active defense with the quickness to bother the Badgers just like UNLV did. However ...
Why Wisconsin Might Win: ... the Bulldog wins came against Charleston Southern and Webber. Charleston Southern and Webber. The defensive line is good at an FCS level, but it has no prayer of holding up for a full sixty minutes. Yeah, the Citadel offense might be the same sort of spread UNLV runs, but lost in the near-upset was how the Rebel offense didn't exactly work against the Badgers. Wisconsin has way too much speed at linebacker for the Bulldogs to be consistently effective.
Who to Watch: Games against teams like The Citadel are for tuning up and getting ready for the bigger games ahead, and Wisconsin needs the work. With starting receiver Paul Hubbard out for several weeks with a knee injury, the time is now for junior Marcus Randle El to live up to his potential, and Kyle Jefferson, a tall, speedy talent with all the tools to become a star, to breakout. The Badgers need to unearth a new deep threat in a hurry, or Luke Swan and Travis Beckum will be swarmed over by defense for the next month.
What Will Happen: After a lifeless performance against UNLV, the Badgers will be energized at home and will make this a laugher after three drives.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 52 ... The Citadel 7
... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1

Illinois (1-1) at Syracuse (0-2)  12:00 PM ESPNU
Why to watch: When schedules were released, both programs circled this date as a winnable game.  It had better be, or the heat on Illinois’ Ron Zook and Syracuse’s Greg Robinson will become unbearable before they dive into their respective conference seasons.  Has the Orange reached rock bottom with losses to Washington and Iowa by a combined score of 77-12, or are there more levels of despair?  It could find out this week against a program that’s been just as futile over the last two years, but has the young talent to be excited about the future.  The Illini rebounded from an emotional opening day loss to Missouri by escaping with a tougher-than-expected win over Western Illinois.  If it has any hopes of ending a six-year post-season drought, beating a stumbling Syracuse team is a must.  If Syracuse has any hopes of keeping Robinson as a head coach, coming up with a win is a necessity.
Why Illinois might win: The Illini defense and the Orange offense are heading in opposite directions.  Coming off its first shutout in seven years, Illinois is gaining confidence and looking for ways to increase the roles of blue-chip freshmen, such as LB Martez Wilson and DT Josh Brent.  Syracuse, on the other hand, has scored only one meaningless touchdown in two games, and was held to just five first downs at Iowa last weekend.  Only Notre Dame has permitted more sacks than the Orange, which explains why QB Andrew Robinson is struggling so hard to move the chains. SU can’t stop running quarterbacks, and there are few better scramblers right now than Juice Williams.
Why Syracuse might win: Precocious teams like Illinois can be exciting, but also chock full of mistakes and sloppy play.  Through two games, the Illini have already made 14 penalties and seven turnovers, which bodes well for an Orange D that’s typically been opportunistic under Robinson.  The key for Syracuse will be for DE Jameel McClain and NT Arthur Jones to create pressure, forcing the erratic Williams into momentum-changing errors. Ron Zook is still on the sidelines on the other side. For the first time in a long time, Robinson might not be outcoached.
Who to watch: There are tackling machines, and then there’s Illinois LB J Leman, a tackling factory.  The senior, who led the Big Ten with 152 stops in 2006, already has 31 stops this year, and should feast on a Syracuse offense that makes precious few plays beyond the second level of defense.  His play means SU will have to bomb away, and that means the Illini D line should be able to tee off against a lousy Orange O line.
What will happen: The Illini will pounce on the opportunity to nudge above .500, using its athleticism and young legs to kick the Orange while it’s down.  While Rashard Mendenhall will lead the way on the ground, true freshman Arrelious Benn will do something to show why he was the top-rated prep receiver last year.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 27 ... Syracuse 17 ... Line: Illinois -11
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Akron (1-1) at Indiana (2-0)
  12:00 PM Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: Is Indiana really one of the Big Ten's hottest teams? Really? The Hoosiers came up with the expected blowout of Indiana State to start the season, and then it kept the offensive momentum rolling against Western Michigan. How can you tell IU is better than previous years? It brought its C game to last week's date in Kalamazoo, and still won 37-27. Akron desperately needs something to jumpstart its season after struggling to beat Army and doing nothing offensively in a 20-2 loss to Ohio State. This will be a key game to see if Indiana really is worthy of paying attention to over the next several weeks, or if it's just a typical Hoosier team that'll be a flaming Big Ten also ran, while it'll also be an important game to see if Akron will have any signs of life in the MAC race.
Why Akron Might Win: The defense hasn't been bad and should be able to keep the Hoosiers from getting out to any sort of a big lead. On the other side, Indiana's supposed strength coming into the season was the secondary, and it still might turn out to be, especially at corner, but the pass defense has struggled so far and got bombed on by Western Michigan. Granted, it was in comeback mode, but WMU still had few problems as Tim Hiller threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns. If Akron's offense was ever going to bust out, this would be the week. The Zip receiving corps is good enough to do some damage if ...
Why Indiana Might Win: ... someone can get them the ball. Akron's offense did absolutely nothing against Ohio State, with just 66 passing yards and three first downs. No, Indiana's defense isn't Ohio State's, but it's better than an Army D that kept the Zips in check. The quarterback play hasn't just been mediocre; it's been awful with no consistency and no big plays. If IU can get up by double digits and force Akron to throw, this could get ugly.
Who to Watch: Indiana's bread will be buttered by the passing game, but to beat Illinois and Iowa in the first few weeks of the Big Ten season, it needs to find some offensive balance with a running attack coming from someone other than QB Kellen Lewis. Marcus Thigpen started to add a little bit of a punch with an 81-yard performance against Western Michigan, but it was on 22 carries. In a perfect world, IU gets up early and then gets the running game a little more work. If Thigpen struggles, then it'll be time to be concern.
What Will Happen: The Akron offense will finally have a few good moments, but not enough of them. IU's offense will be tested for the first time all year and will need the fourth quarter to finally pull away and be comfortable.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 26 ... Akron 17
... Line: Indiana -12.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2


Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2


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