Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Nov. 10
Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall
Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall
Posted Nov 7, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 11 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 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 17    

How are the picks so far? SU: 60-16 ... ATS: 30-34-2

Big 10 Week 11 Predictions, Part 2

Big 10 Game of the Week

Illinois (7-3) at Ohio State (10-0)  3:30 PM ABC
Why to watch: On its ill-fated run to a seemingly certain 2006 national championship, Ohio State's one mini-speed bump came in a battle with Illinois, winning 17-10, as the only time anyone came within double digits until the Michigan classic. It's possible that this year's version of the Buckeyes is even better, with a more complete defense, improved offensive line, and skill players that are putting up numbers that aren't that far off from last year's juggernaut. Of course, the Big Ten world revolves around next week's battle with the Wolverines, but the Illini will pose a worthy test. Ron Zook's club had its fun last week against Minnesota, running for 441 yards in a rout, and now is looking to finish in the number three spot and go somewhere in Florida for New Year's Day. Is this the young team's coming of age, or is it just going to be another lesson applied by a Buckeye team humming on all cylinders? While firmly entrenched in the top spot, OSU could use a style points win over a good team to get a still skeptical nation to start believing that this really and truly is a team worthy of the national title, and not just a very good squad rolling through the weak and sad Big Ten.
Why Illinois might win: Illinois has just enough of a mix of talents to actually pull this off. The defense is strong against the run, is able to disrupt things in the backfield, has the best offensive line the Buckeyes have seen all year, and, of course, the running game that could control the game at times. While the passing numbers are lousy, ranking last in the Big Ten in both yards and pass efficiency, they're misleading. At times, Juice Williams has thrown effectively well, completing 14 of 21 passes against Minnesota and doing just enough to get by Wisconsin. He was fine against both Iowa and Michigan, even in defeat. If he can keep the turnovers to a minimum, and if the defense can avoid getting steamrolled in the fourth quarter once the Buckeye offensive line starts to jell, this will be a sixty minute war.
Why Ohio State might win: Illinois had just enough of a mix of talents to actually pull this off ... and Ohio State has the linebacking corps to keep that from happening. James Laurinaitis gets all the accolades, and is likely to secure the Butkus Award after a 19-stop day against the Badgers, but his running mates, Marcus Freeman and Larry Grant, will be just as vital. For the Illinois offense to work, Williams and Rashard Mendenhall have to get loose past the line and have to be able to get to the outside. That's not going to happen against this group. Iowa's great defensive front seven shut down the Illini cold, and while Penn State didn't have the same overall success dealing with the running quarterbacks, Ohio State will have few problems taking away at least one of the options.
Who to watch: No, Chris "Beanie" Wells isn't in the Heisman chase, but the Buckeye sophomore has put himself on the map for next year with seven 100-yard days, 1,165 yards and ten touchdowns, highlighted by an impressive three score day last week. The Illinois run defense, led by LB J Leman, will have to be prepared for the cutback runs that Wells has feasted on, but that's easier said than done. He's showing great patience, reading his blocks well, and taking advantage of every opening. If he runs for more yards than Mendenhall, this will be an ugly blowout.
What will happen: There won't be any letdown factor going into the Michigan game considering this is the last home game of the year. Illinois will come up with an early scoring drive, but won't be able to get the offense moving for a full four quarters. The Illinois secondary hits like a ton of bricks, but it also covers like it. The two running games will be equally mediocre, Ohio State will be able to throw, Illinois won't.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 30 ... Illinois 17  ... Line: Ohio State -15
Must See Rating: (5
Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 4

Big 10 Saturday November 10

Indiana (6-4) at Northwestern (5-5)   12:00 PM ESPN Classic
Why to watch: There might be bigger and badder Big Ten games on the slate, but this one might be the most fun. Indiana got its elusive sixth win to become bowl eligible, but it could use another victory just to make sure there's a 13th game. Northwestern is trying for the third week in a row to get there after losing to Purdue and Iowa. With a road trip to Illinois to close out the year, it might be win now or enjoy the holidays for Pat Fitzgerald's club. While the offense has struggled over the last two games, the Cats still lead the Big Ten in passing and total offense, while Indiana has bombed away for 243 passing yards per game and is as explosive as anyone in the conference. The two teams haven't played in two years, but Indiana has lost three straight in the series and hasn't won in Evanston since 1993.
Why Indiana might win: Northwestern's offense has picked the wrong time to start screwing up. The yards, for the most part, have been there over the last two weeks, but the Cats turned it over nine times against Purdue and Iowa and have alternated defensively between getting beaten by the run of pass. Indiana can do a little of both and should be able to move the ball however it wants to. The key will be the Northwestern pass protection; there hasn't been any. The Wildcats have allowed 30 sacks on the year, while Indiana pass rush has been unstoppable at times. Wildcat QB C.J. Bacher won't have much time to operate.
Why Northwestern might win: Indiana's offense has picked the wrong time to start screwing up. Oh sure, the Hoosiers are putting up yards in chunks, but they can't stop giving the ball away with 12 turnovers in the last three games. Fumbles have been the biggest issue, with Kellen Lewis having major problems hanging on to the ball. Northwestern's offense is fine, but it could also use a bit of a kickstart at times. Few Big Ten teams feed off momentum like Northwestern, and if it can win the turnover battle, it should be fine.
Who to watch: Lewis might be the Big Ten's most interesting player. A threat to tear off a big run at any time, he only has one huge rushing day, a 199-yard effort against Akron, with 587 yards and five touchdowns. He's been the Hoosier's main rushing weapon at times while growing into a fearsome passer with three 300-yard days, and two in the last three weeks, with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. When he's on, IU can be unstoppable. When he's struggling, like he did against Wisconsin, the attack grinds to a halt. Northwestern hasn't faced anyone like him.
What will happen: Will it be a bit of a letdown factor for the Hoosiers? Getting to six wins was the goal, while Northwestern is way overdue for a good performance and will be extra motivated knowing that it might be now or never for a bowl game. It won't matter. Northwestern's defense won't be able to handle Lewis.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 31 ... Northwestern 23  ... Line: Indiana -2
Must See Rating: (5
Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 2.5

Michigan (8-2) at Wisconsin (7-3)   12:00 PM ESPN
Why to watch: Wisconsin is pushing for a possible New Year's Day slot with a splashy victory over the Wolverines before getting a layup against Minnesota, and even though the season has been a disappointment, there's still a chance to win ten games for the third year in a row. Coming off a good battle against Ohio State that was far closer than the 38-17 final score would indicate, the banged up Badgers need this. On the other side, there's two schools of thought on Michigan. A win would make it nine in a row and could assure an at-large BCS spot no matter what happens against Ohio State. On the other hand, beating the Buckeyes is everything. It's why Chad Henne and Mike Hart came back for their senior years, it's what the program has been pointing towards after losing the last three years, and it's all the program has been talking about ever since last year's classic. The Wisconsin game is relatively meaningless. Michigan can do no worse than go to the Capital One Bowl, but could use everyone being healthy for a shot at the Rose. Imagine the Monday morning quarterbacking that'll be done if Henne or Hart get further banged up and are out next week. Of course, Michigan wants to win and will play its two battered stars. This could be a war of attrition between the two injured teams.
Why Michigan might win: Wisconsin doesn't have enough in the secondary to handle all of Michigan's weapons. Jack Ikegwuonu will erase one of the Wolverine receivers, but the other side will be a question mark with Allen Langford gone for the year with a knee injury. Henne will be sure to look where No. 6 is on every pass play, and got to the other side. Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham can each burn the Badgers, with Manningham having success over the last two years with 11 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Making matters worse for Wisconsin is the loss of top defensive tackle Jason Chapman, meaning the holes should be there for Hart to run through as the day goes on.
Why Wisconsin might win: The Badgers have struggled throughout the year, but they've produced at home going 6-0, while going 1-3 on the road. They need this game far more than Michigan does, and because of all the injuries, there might be a chance of a slight letdown from the Maize and Blue. The overall run defense stats are solid, but Michigan allowed a big day to Michigan State's Javon Ringer, allowed 85 yards to Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois. Wisconsin can throw the ball effectively, and it should be able to run better at home even without P.J. Hill, who's questionable at very best with a few leg issues, because ...
Who to watch: Lance Smith will be able to play. Suspended for all road games because of a altercation involving his girlfriend, Smith was unavailable when his team needed him the most last week against the Buckeyes. True freshman Zach Brown did a nice job with 63 tough yards on 20 carries, and he'll get plenty of work this week, but in a positive way, the suspension might turn out to help the Badgers with a fresh-legged Smith ready to roll. At the very least, he'll provide a weapon for a Badger team looking for more than just tight end Travis Beckum.
What will happen: Wisconsin is beaten up and is missing too many key parts to pull off the upset. A fully healthy Badger team wins this game, even if Henne and Hart were 100%, but now with Hill, Chapman, top WR Luke Swan, Langford, and guard Andy Kemp hurting, there are too many holes to beat a team playing with as much heart as any in America.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 24 ... Wisconsin 20  ... Line: Michigan -2.5
Must See Rating: (5
Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 4

Big 10 Week 11 Predictions, Part 2


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