Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Sept. 29
Michigan State RB Jehuu Caulcrick
Michigan State RB Jehuu Caulcrick
Posted Sep 26, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 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. 22 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17    

How are the picks so far? SU: 31-8 ... ATS: 13-17-2

Big 10 Week Five Predictions, Part 2

Big 10 Game of the Week

Michigan State (4-0) at Wisconsin (4-0)  3:30 PM ABC
Why to Watch: It's a month into the season, and we don't really know what this Wisconsin team is all about. The program is on a nation-leading 13-game winning streak, but it's been freightingly shaky at times, with no defense in the first half against Citadel, little offense against UNLV and Iowa, and plenty of question marks on both sides of the ball for a supposed national title contender. It's a month into the season, and we don't really know what this Michigan State team is all about. The 4-0 start is all the Spartans fans could possibly ask for, but the supposedly tough games against Pitt and Notre Dame weren't proper indicators, considering how anemic the two offenses are at the moment. A win in Madison would officially kick things up , a notch in the young regime of Mark Dantonio, and with Northwestern and Indiana ahead (before playing Ohio State), a 7-0 start, the program's first since 1966, is very possible. The Badgers go on the road to face Illinois and Penn State over the next two games.
Why Michigan State Might Win: If you like Wisconsin, then you also have to like Michigan State, because the two are virtually the same team. They both run well behind mammoth offensive lines, they both have average passing games, and they both play tough defense. The one major difference is in the pass rush; Michigan State has one, and Wisconsin doesn't. The Badgers have problems against quick, athletic lines, and it's going to be in for a whale of a nightmare against a Spartan defensive front that leads the nation in sacks and is fifth in tackles for loss. If UW is in several third and long situations, it might as well punt.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: As good as the MSU running game has been, the offense isn't exactly a well-oiled machine. It's struggled so far to close on good drives, and while the passing game has been efficient, it hasn't been explosive. The UW secondary has gotten away with several near-misses and hasn't done a great job in coverage so far, but it's been effective and is tackling better. As long as the defensive front doesn't let the Spartan ground attack control the tempo from the start, and as long as QB Brian Hoyer has to try to make big plays, the Badger defense should be able to get to him.
Who to Watch: Michigan State senior DE Jonal Saint-Dic has been a one man wrecking crew, cranking out six sacks and forcing five fumbles in the first four games, and will require double and triple teaming if the mediocre Badger pass protection struggles early. Badger QB Tyler Donovan is usually the most effective when he's getting outside the pocket and making plays on the move, but he has a fumbling issue and is almost certain to try and stay away from Saint-Dic's side of the field.
What Will Happen: Michigan State will out-Wisconsin, Wisconsin. The Spartans are a horrible matchup for the Badgers, with the active defensive front certain to wreak havoc in the backfield, and the big offensive line sure to have a few moments of domination. It's not going to be a pretty game, but if you like pounding running games, this will be for you.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 17 ... Wisconsin 16
... Line: Wisconsin -7
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ... 4

Big 10 Saturday, Sept. 29

Penn State (3-1) at Illinois (3-1)  12:00 PM Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: All of a sudden, it seems like Penn State isn't quite as good as thought, while Illinois appears to be on the verge of becoming a real, live Big Ten player. No, beating Indiana on the road doesn't automatically mean its time to book tickets for Pasadena, but the Hoosier offense is dangerous, and was relatively hot, and the Illini defense kept it in check. This is a fast, athletic, dangerous team that's quickly growing up, but there's a big jump from beaing IU and getting past a wounded Penn State. There was a groundswell of support for the Nittany Lions being the Big Ten's best team, then the offense couldn't get going, and the run defense couldn't stop Mike Hart, in a 14-9 loss that proved the early blowouts against bad teams meant absolutely nothing. This is the toughest road game until the season-ender at Michigan State, and a win in Champaign is a must to keep Big Ten title hopes alive. Illinois hosts Wisconsin next week and can't afford any home slips.
Why Penn State Might Win: Yeah, Mike Hart had an all-timer of a performance last week, but that was because he ran the ball 44 times. The 153 yards were obviously impressive, but he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and didn't bust out any big runs. Illinois lives with its running game, and it has to get big yards from QB Juice Williams. Penn State's linebacking corps, arguably the best in America, isn't going to let that happen. If Williams has to throw efficiently, it's going to be a long afternoon for the Illini offense. Also, watch out for the punting game. Illinois is struggling to get consistency out of its kicks, while Penn State, thanks to Derrick Williams, is among the best in America averaging 16.6 yards per punt return.
Why Illinois Might Win: Anthony Morelli. Penn State's mediocre running game might be shut down cold by J Leman and the rock-solid Illini run defense, that's allowing just 87 yards per game, which means it might be up to Morelli to try to win the game. If the Michigan loss was any indication, he can't do it. He was under a little bit of pressure, but not enough to be an excuse for completing 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards without a touchdown. Illinois has a far better pass rush than Michigan and will be able to generate good pressure and force Morelli to rush. The Illinois secondary has to take advantage.
Who to Watch: Who's the best running back in the Big Ten right now? It's probably Hart, but in the discussion along with Wisconsin's P.J. Hill is Illinois junior Rashard Mendenhall. Little used as a sophomore, he had a breakout game in the 26-12 loss to Penn State, rushing 14 times for 161 yards with a touchdown. The coaching staff figured out this off-season that Mendenhall needed to get the ball more, and he has responded with three straight 100-yard games, rushing for 536 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He ran for three scores against Syracuse, tore off 214 yards against Indiana, and has to be a 100-yard factor for the Illini to have a shot.
What Will Happen: Penn State's offense will look awful at times, but the defense will make up for the problems. The Nittany Lion defensive front is too active and too good at getting into the backfield for the Illinois offense to get on any sort of run. Morelli won't be great, but he'll come up with two big pass plays, and Derrick Williams will rip off one big punt return, to escape Champaign alive.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 20 ... Illinois 14
... Line: Penn State -3
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ... 3

Indiana (3-1) at Iowa (2-2) 
12:05 PM Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: Last year, Iowa was having a nice year, going 5-1 with the only loss coming to a juggernaut of an Ohio State team. And then came a trip to Indiana, and with a 31-28 loss, the Hawkeyes went into the tank, losing six of their final seven games. Now it's gut-check time for Iowa, after coming oh-so-close to beating Wisconsin, despite losing a ton of key players, and with a trip to Penn State ahead, this could be a rough stretch if it can't get by the Hoosiers. Indiana started out 3-0, but gave the ball away four times and couldn't stop Rashard Mendenhall and the Illinois running game in a 27-14 loss. A win would mean a bowl bid is all but assured, with several winnable games again, and would get the team back on track with a nice big-name win.
Why Indiana Might Win: Does Iowa have anyone to catch the ball? Few teams in America have taken as big a hit to a specific area as Iowa has at receiver and tight end, with a Spinal Tap drummer variety of problems forcing several young players to contribute right away. The Hawkeye offense is struggling with its consistency, and it could have a big issue with an Indiana secondary with a loaded corner tandem. This isn't an efficient Iowa passing game to begin with, hurt by the lousy pass protection from the offensive line, and the Hoosiers should be able to take advantage.
Why Iowa Might Win: The Iowa defensive line should dominate. Mitch King and Ken Iwebema are having all-star seasons, with King coming up with a national breakout game against Wisconsin last week. IU's offense comes from the mobility of QB Kellen Lewis, who leads the team in rushing, but if the Hawkeye defensive line doesn't let him out of the pocket, the attack will quickly break down. IU might be 17th in the nation running the ball, but it won't pound away.
Who to Watch: Iowa might want to take special note of where No. 82 is. Indiana junior James Hardy has killed the Hawkeyes over the last two years, catching 12 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown two years ago, and making eight grabs for 104 yards and three scores in last season's win. The Hawkeyes can only dream of having a healthy receiver of Hardy's caliber. Top receiver Andy Brodell is out, and true freshman Colin Sandeman is in. Top tight end Tony Moeaki is out after an elbow injury, and Brandon Myers is in. This has to be a game of creativity for the Hawkeyes, so expect RB Albert Young being used in a variety of different ways.
What Will Happen: Indiana will give Iowa all it can handle in what'll be an ugly defensive battle. Iowa's defensive front will do a better job than Indiana's.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 23 ... Indiana 17
... Line: Iowa -11
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ... 2.5

Big 10 Week Five Predictions, Part 2


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