Big Ten Fearless Predictions
Michigan's Chad Henne and Ohio State's Chris Wells
Michigan's Chad Henne and Ohio State's Chris Wells
Posted Jun 11, 2007

It might not have the same importance of last year's classic, but it's still Ohio State vs. Michigan, and it still has plenty of bearing on the BCS. Will Chad Henne finally get his win over the Buckeyes, or will Chris Wells lead the way to a fourth straight win? Check out the previews and predictions for all the Week 12 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. 10

How are the picks so far? SU: 63-19 ... ATS: 33-37-2

Big 10 Week 12 Predictions, Part 2

Big 10 Game of the Week

Ohio State (10-1) at Michigan (8-3)  12:00 PM  ABC
Why to watch
: It's Michigan vs. Ohio State for the Big Ten title. What a shock. There might not be the luster on this game of last year's all-timer, and there might not be the national interest there was two weeks ago when the Buckeyes were No. 1 and the lead dog in the national title chase, but there's still reason for non-Big Teners to be interested in the greatest rivalry in sports. If OSU wins, it'll go to the Rose Bowl and Michigan will be all but certain to go to the Capital One Bowl. Had the Wolverines beaten Wisconsin last week, they could've had a shot to slip into an at-large BCS slot with a reasonable loss to the Buckeyes, but now, any dreams of a big money spotlight game rest on winning this week so they can go to the Rose Bowl. If you're a fan of the ACC, SEC or Big East, the league's not assured, at the moment, of a second team getting in the BCS, you might need Ohio State to win. Of course, the main storylines are about Michigan. Last year the loss of Bo Schembechler cranked up the intensity of what was already the greatest matchup ever between the two schools, while this year, there's talk of Lloyd Carr retiring at the end of the year, and there's that 0-3 matzo ball hanging over the head of the Michigan stars. QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart and OT Jake Long might be the most productive trio of stars Michigan has ever had, but they haven't beaten Ohio State and they haven't won a bowl game. Rose Bowl, schmose Bowl, this is the game they desperately want. For Ohio State, a win wouldn't just mean a four-game winning streak over their hated rivals for the first time since a run from 1960 to 1964, but it would keep the feint national title dreams alive. It would take a ton of crazy things to get to New Orleans for the BCS Championship game, but at 11-1, the slim hopes would still exist. At worst, a loss should mean an at-large BCS bid, while a win would mean the first trip to the Rose Bowl in the Jim Tressel era, and the program's first game in Pasadena since beating Arizona State and Jake Plummer in the 1997 classic.
Why Ohio State might win: In a strange sort of way, losing to Illinois last week might have been the best thing that could've happened to OSU for this game. Had the Buckeyes been unbeaten, the pressure would've been completely on their shoulders, but now that they're not playing for the national title, all the pressure, all the focus, and all the weight of the expectations are on Michigan. If it the Wolverines can't beat the Buckeyes this year, considering this is a home game with all the stars expected back and ready, then when will it? Even if Hart and Henne are back and ready, this was hardly a juggernaut when they were right, needing to battle hard to put points on the board. As good as the Michigan offensive line is, it's been mediocre in pass protection. The Buckeye defensive front has been terrific lately at getting to the quarterback and should have few problems popping Henne.
Why Michigan might win: That supposedly impenetrable Ohio State secondary gave up four touchdown passes to Juice Williams last week; one of the nation's most inefficient passers. The Buckeyes have faced one great receiving corps this year, Purdue's and gave up 268 yards and a touchdown in the easy win, and one good receiving corps in Penn State, and shut it down. Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington are playing extremely well and should stretch things out enough to keep the safeties deep. Michigan's big defensive issues come against running quarterbacks. That's not Todd Boeckman.
Who to watch: Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, you're on. Long has been an All-America rock all season long, while Henne and Hart have tried to fight through injuries over the back half of the season. Short of having a limb cut off, the two stars won't be kept off the field in the game they need to avoid the "yeah, but" before their names in the history books. Hart tore off 142 yards and two touchdowns in last year's matchup, but this year is a near mirror image of 2005 when he was hurts over the back half of the season and was only able to carry the ball nine times for 15 yards in a 25-21 loss. Henne might be 0-3 against OSU, but it's not necessarily been his fault. He's been terrific in the three averaging showdowns averaging 273 yards per game with five touchdown and two interceptions, both coming in the first game. For Henne and Hart, this is their national title game. The Rose Bowl wouldn't be icing on the cake if they could get a win this week. It would be a few sprinkles.
What will happen: There won't be any big kickoff returns. As good as these two are, neither can return a kickoff with Ohio State ranking dead last in America. Ohio State is the better team, but that hasn't always meant much in this rivalry. This is the game Michigan has waited all year for, more than in most years. This has been the team's obsession from day one, more than in most years. This is when Henne and Hart will cement themselves as Wolverine legends as they send Lloyd Carr off (wink, wink) with a perfect ending to a regular season that started out so horribly wrong.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 24 ... Ohio State 20 ... Line: Ohio State -3
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 5

Big 10 Saturday November 17

Northwestern (6-5) at Illinois (8-3)  12:00 PM ESPN
Why to watch
: All of a sudden, Illinois is walking a little taller and has the nation's respect after running over Ohio State in the 28-21 shocker. A win this week would put the Illini in a position to come up with a ten-win season and likely get the Big Ten's No. 3 bowl slot going to either the Outback or Capital One on New Year's Day. Northwestern might have gotten bowl eligible last week with a 31-28 win over Indiana, but it probably needs a win this week, and then hope for a break, to get one of the Big Ten's precious bowl openings. It's the Big Ten's best passing offense (Northwestern) against the league's best running attack (Illinois), with the Illinois trying to break a four-game losing streak in the series.
Why Northwestern might win: The Illinois secondary can be thrown on. Ohio State's fatal flaw last week Todd Boeckman's three interceptions. The Buckeyes went away from the passing game as they tried to pound the ball on the Illinois defensive front seven. Big mistake. That was an aberration; Illinois only had four picks on the year before the OSU win. Northwestern will come out guns blazing and challenge the Illinois secondary from the start. Whether out of necessity (Wisconsin) or by design (Michigan), teams that have made sure to not go away from the passing game have been able to hang up big yards against Illinois. C.J. Bacher will throw for well over 300 yards, but ...
Why Illinois might win: ... he'll get picked off. As good as Bacher has been all season long, he's struggled lately with interceptions giving away three in each of the last three games. The bigger problem will be a Wildcat run defense that kept Indiana's Kellen Lewis in check, but got run on by Minnesota's Adam Weber and has struggled at making plays in the backfield. If the Ohio State and Penn State linebacking corps, arguably the two best in the nation, couldn't stop Juice Williams and the Illinois running game, then what hope does Northwestern have? Not much.
Who to watch: All the Big Ten focus is on Williams after his performance against the Buckeyes, and Rashard Mendenhall, who didn't do much last week, but has been the Big Ten's best back all year. They'll get their yards, but this might be the Tyrell Sutton show. The Northwestern junior is back from an ankle problem and rolling with 116 yards and a touchdown against Iowa and 141 yards and a score, along with six catches for 72 yards, in the win over Indiana. He ran for 110 yards and a touchdown last year against the Illini after ripping them apart for 212 yards in 2005. He's taking the pressure off Bacher, and he has to have a big day as both a runner and receiver for the Wildcats to win.
What will happen: Illinois always has problems in this game, and this year will be no exception. Northwestern will stay in the game by bombing away, but Williams and Mendenhall will turn out to be too productive. They won't control the fourth quarter like they did against Ohio State, but they'll dominate the time of possession.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 38 ... Northwestern 27 ... Line: Illinois -13.5
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 3

Purdue (7-4) at Indiana (6-5)
  3:30 PM Big Ten Network
Why to watch
: The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket might be for more than just bragging rights; it could be for a bowl game. With the Big Ten to likely have two, maybe three eligible teams miss out on a bowl slot, every positive on the résumé will be noted. Purdue is probably assured of a 13th game, and a win over IU would cement it. The Hoosiers have been using "13th Game" as a rallying cry, but they'll probably need to break the five-game losing streak to the Boilermakers to get it. Not only has IU lost five in a row to Purdue, it hasn't even been close. This should be the most competitive game of the rivalry in recent years.
Why Purdue might win: It's all about keeping QB Curtis Painter upright for the Purdue offense to roll, and for the most part this year, it's done a good job. Indiana's defense is built around getting into the backfield and getting to the quarterback, but that leaves its tremendous corners all alone most of the time. That's fine against most teams, but with the Purdue receiving corps so deep and talented, if Painter gets a little bit of time to find his second and third options, he'll be deadly. IU's defense has been consistently mediocre over the last month, so if Kellen Lewis and the offense can't crank out at least 30 points, the Hoosiers likely won't have a shot at pulling this off.
Why Indiana might win: The Purdue defense has decided to take the last two weeks off. Michigan State and Penn State were able to crank out a bit of balance to move the ball without much of a problem, and Indiana should have similar success getting things moving however it wants to. Yeah, Purdue's offensive line has been strong in pass protection for the most part, but Michigan State and Penn State were able to get to Painter just enough to screw things up for a few drives. That's why the key player for the Hoosiers might be ...
Who to watch: ... sophomore Greg Middleton, who's second in the nation in sacks. He's solid against the run, but his real specialty has been pressuring the passer all season long. While it's obviously not this simple, IU is 0-3 so far this year when he fails to register a sack. He's a tone-setter who forces offenses to keep an extra blocker or two on him on every play. The rest of the line is feeding off this.
What will happen: Indiana is going retro with 1967 jerseys and helmets to honor that Rose Bowl team. The IU secondary will keep this just close enough to make it tight going into the fourth quarter, but Purdue will have too much balance to get tripped up. The Boilermakers are overdue for a great game.
CFN Prediction: Purdue 38 ... Indiana 31 ... Line: Purdue -2
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 3

Big 10 Week 12 Predictions, Part 2


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