Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Sept. 22
Indiana QB Kellen Lewis
Indiana QB Kellen Lewis
Posted Sep 19, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 4 Big Ten Games.

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

Big Ten Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 15Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17    

How are the picks so far? SU: 27-6 ... ATS: 11-14-1

Big 10 Week Four Predictions, Part 2

Big 10 Game of the Week

Penn State (3-0) at Michigan (1-2)  3:30 PM ABC
Why to Watch: Playing Notre Dame right now makes everyone feel better. Penn State got its licks in against the Irish, winning 31-10, but suffers the humiliation of being the one team to give of a touchdown (albeit a defensive one). Michigan temporarily got on track with its 38-0 domination of the Irish last weekend, and now the season can really take off with a win against a strong Nittany Lion team. With Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota in the next five weeks (surrounding a tough battle with Purdue), the chance is there, with a win this week, to go on a huge run that'll make everyone temporarily forget the ugly start. For Penn State, it's demon exorcising time. It got its comeuppance on Notre Dame for last year's 41-17 blowout loss, and now it'll try to stop the bleeding after losing nine straight to the Maize and Blue, with the last win coming in 1996. The Big Ten title appears to be there for the taking this season, and the winner will take a huge step forward.
Why Penn State Might Win: Don't fall for the Notre Dame mirage. There's still a boatload of trouble on the Michigan defense, and while Chad Henne might be ready to go on an injured knee, it could still be freshman Ryan Mallett under center against the brick wall of a Nittany Lion defense. Penn State is number one in America against the run, allowing just 17.67 yards per game, and also leads the nation with 17 sacks. The Wolverine passing game hasn't exactly clicked yet, and it won't if it has to take over the game.
Why Michigan Might Win: Don't fall for the Notre Dame mirage. Oh sure, the stats might be jaw-dropping, but you have to take everything done against Notre Dame right now with a grain of salt. Beating up on Florida International and Buffalo isn't exactly reason to start booking tickets for New Orleans in early January. There's still a major question mark about a Nittany Lion running game that hasn't been tested yet. QB Anthony Morelli will be under more pressure than he had to face in the first three games combined, and finally, the defense will play an offense with living, breathing talent.
Who to Watch: Michigan RB Mike Hart, a Heisman finalist, has been booted out of this year's race after the 1-2 start, but so far, he's been even more Heisman-worthy than last year. All he has done is crank out games of 188, 127, and 187 yards with five touchdowns, and he stepped up with a guarantee of a win over Notre Dame that showed an attitude the team has been desperately missing. On the other side, the only thing missing from the Penn State offense is a sure-thing running back, and now there's a battle for the starting spot. It was Austin Scott's gig to start the year, but two early fumbles against Buffalo opened the door for Rodney Kinlaw, who stepped in and ran 23 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Scott is still listed as the starter, but that could quickly change.
What Will Happen: Which team is the real deal? Penn State. Michigan's early problems were mainly due to playing spread offenses, but the defense will have just as hard a time against the Nittany Lion receiving corps. If Morelli gets time, he'll have a huge game.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 31 ... Michigan 17
... Line: Penn State -2.5
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Big 10 Saturday, Sept. 22

Illinois (2-1) at Indiana (3-0)  12:00 PM
Why to Watch: Illinois and Indiana are much better than they've been in past seasons, and while they might not be playing like the bottom feeders they usually are, neither can afford to give away a winnable game. Indiana has at least three games left that it might be favored in (Minnesota, Ball State, at Northwestern), meaning that a win this week could set things up for the program's first bowl bid since 1993. It would also be the first 4-0 start since 1990. The offense has been tremendous, and the defense stunningly strong against Western Michigan and Akron. Illinois had a lousy first half against Missouri, and has gone on a roll ever since, with a great second half in the loss, followed up by wins over Western Illinois and Syracuse. A win would give the Illini its first three-game winning streak since 2001, and might be a must with Penn State and Wisconsin to follow.
Why Illinois Might Win: The defensive front seven has been fantastic so far. Missouri had a rough time running the ball on the Illini front wall, and Western Illinois and Syracuse went nowhere. Led by tackling-machine LB J Leman, getting into the backfield hasn't been a problem so far with 21 tackles for loss and consistent pressure on the quarterback. Indiana has been moving the ball most effectively on the ground, leading the Big Ten averaging 259 yards per game. That might come to a crashing halt this week.
Why Indiana Might Win: Turnovers. Indiana forces them; Illinois doesn't. The Hoosiers are seventh in the nation in turnover margin, helped by ten takeaways from its smallish, aggressive defense that makes a point of trying to make the big play. Meanwhile, the offense has been careful with the ball so far. The Illinois defense has been strong, but it doesn't come up with game-changing turnovers. If the Hoosier running game is stopped, the passing game can pick up the slack. The same can't necessarily be said for an Illinois offense that's wildly inconsistent when it has to put the ball in the air.
Who to Watch: This game could have the nation's most entertaining quarterback battle this week. Indiana sophomore Kellen Lewis is a dual-threat playmaker who's thrown three touchdown passes in each of his first three games, and tore off 199 rushing yards and two scores last week against Akron. Illinois sophomore Juice Williams is equally exciting, but he hasn't gotten on track this year. He throws shorter, safer passes than Lewis, but he still struggles from time to time connecting with the open man. He ran for 90 yards and a touchdown last week against Syracuse, and has to be spied on at all times by the IU linebackers.
What Will Happen: Illinois is the more talented team with the brighter future, and it has the linebacking corps to keep Lewis from running wild, but Indiana is playing sound, sharp football right now. The offensive balance, along with better special teams play, will get IU to 4-0.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 31 ... Illinois 27
... Line: Illinois -3
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Michigan State (3-0) at Notre Dame (0-3)  3:30 PM NBC
Why to Watch: Next up to have a turn at poor Notre Dame is Michigan State, who's looking to keep the hot start under head coach Mark Dantonio going after surviving a strange 17-13 battle against Pitt. The Spartans have done this before, like last year, only to see everything unravel at the blink of an eye. Could this be 2006 all over again? MSU started out the season 3-0, looked strong, was blowing out Notre Dame, and then choked away a 40-37 loss to the Irish that set the wheels in motion for a bizarre rest of the year, losing seven of the final eight games, and needing an all-timer of a comeback against Northwestern to pull off the one win. Losing to Notre Dame this year might be even more painful, and with a trip to Wisconsin ahead, the last thing the team needs is to start worrying about yet another collapse. The Irish woes have been well documented with no offensive touchdowns and horrific offensive play that's on setting an all-time mark for futility. With road games against Purdue and UCLA ahead, followed up by dates with Boston College and USC, this might be the team's last honest shot at a win until early November.
Why Michigan State Might Win: The Irish lines are next-level awful. Why all the problems trying to move the ball? The skill players aren't getting any time with the quarterbacks being sacked 23 times so far, the most in the nation. MSU is tied for the the nation's lead in sacks with 17, and is third in tackles for loss with 31. In other words, Jimmy Clausen and the boys aren't going to have any time to operate this week, either. On the other side of the ball, the Spartans should be able to run at will on an Irish defensive front that hasn't been remotely close to making a big stop.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: You don't think Michigan State believes it's won this game already? The Spartans can talk all they want about wanting revenge for last year, but they've seen what's happened so far. They can't look at the film and not be kicking their feet up a little bit. Pitt was without its starting quarterback last week, struggled to move the ball, turned it over three times, got 85 passing yards, and it still had the ball with one last shot to win the game. The MSU defense is hardly a rock, and if Clausen can get any time whatsoever, he should be able to produce.
Who to Watch: The formula should be simple for Michigan State. Don't turn the ball over, keep running, run it some more, and if the running game gets stuffed,  run it again. Eventually, the home runs will be there for Javon Ringer, who has gotten off to a hot start running for 80, 83 and 92 yards, and for pounder Jehuu Caulcrick, who has rushed for 93, 53 and 71 yards with six touchdowns. For the Irish, it's time to do something drastic, and that might mean winging it around a bit. Clausen hasn't had time to open it up, and his short passes haven't gone anywhere. Watch for more deep balls this week.
What Will Happen: Notre Dame will get an offensive touchdown, and will even get a second. Michigan State will get more. The Spartan ground game will eat up time, while the aggressive defensive front will put Clausen on his back for at least four sacks.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 28 ... Notre Dame 14
... Line: Michigan State -13.5
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ... 3

Big 10 Week Four Predictions, Part 2


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