Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Sept. 1, Part 2
Posted Aug 22, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 1 Big Ten Games, Part 2

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Big Ten Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 1

Big Ten Saturday, September 1

Washington State at Wisconsin  3:30 pm EST ABC
Why to Watch: Alright Wisconsin, it's go time. You have everyone's attention. You have the high ranking. You seemingly have the talent and the team in place to make a possible run to the BCS, but first, you have to prove to a slightly skeptical college football world that you're more than just an above-average team that had a cakewalk of a schedule. Alright Washington State, it's go time. After four years of mediocrity under head coach Bill Doba, and after seemingly inventing ways to not go to a bowl game, a good performance against a name team is a must. In an opening weekend full of dud games and sure-thing mismatches, this could be a good litmus test for two top conferences. Wisconsin has to win impressively, or everyone might have to take a step back from their Badger love for a few weeks, while Washington State has show that it can eventually become a player in the Pac 10 race.
Why Washington State Might Win: While the Cougar defensive front might not be outstanding, it has a nice mix of big bodies and good athletes that should be able to attack from all angles and generate consistent pressure in the backfield. While it's a new year and a new team, to compare to 2006, Wisconsin faced three teams with good, athletic defensive fronts: Michigan (loss), Penn State (a 13-3 struggle of a win) and Arkansas (an ugly 17-14 win that saw the ground game go nowhere). The Cougars might give up yards in bunches at times, but they'll also get their share of big defensive plays. However, all that pressure means ...
Why Wisconsin Might Win: ... the underappreciated Badger receiving corps should come up with a ton, a TON, of big plays against a Cougar secondary that lacks experience and top-shelf talent. Most know about TE Travis Beckum, who should go crazy underneath with the Wazzu linebackers cheating up to stop RB P.J. Hill, but it's the big speedy guys on the outside, Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan, who need to shine. If QB Tyler Donovan gets a little bit of time, he should have all the deep passes he wants to make. That'll only open things up that much more for Hill.
Who to Watch: While there really wasn't a major quarterback derby in Madison, it wasn't until this week that Donovan was officially named the starter over improving Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge. Donovan has spent three years as a backup and was instrumental late last year, especially in the win over Iowa, when John Stocco was hurt, and now he has to be effective as the No. 1 to keep the heat off the ground attack. As the best running quarterback the Badger attack has had in years, Donovan will provide an element sorely missing when Stocco and Jim Sorgi were under center. For Washington State, it all comes down to senior Alex Brink. A four-year starter with a live arm and nice receiving corps, led by Michael Bumpus, to work with, he needs to come up with a huge performance to pull off the upset.
What Will Happen: Washington State will come up with its share of big plays on both sides of the ball, but the steady balance of the Badger offense, with a nice blend of yards from Hill and Donovan, will control the game from the start. It's not going to be easy, and there will be a few shaky spots, but Wisconsin will pull away in the fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 34 ... Washington State 17
... Line: Wisconsin -14
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 3
Final Score: 

Iowa at Northern Illinois (in Chicago) 3:30 pm EST ESPNU
Why to Watch: It'll be an interesting atmosphere as the two teams battle it out in Chicago's Soldier Field in what might be the largest crowd to ever watch a Northern Illinois "home" game. After a disappointing season, Iowa needs to come out roaring after losing six of its final seven games, with the only win coming in a lifeless 24-14 win over the Huskies. Not much is expected out of Joe Novak's rebuilding NIU team, but if it's going to pull off an upset, week one is the time to do it. Iowa is breaking in several key new starters and should need a little while before it plays up to its capability.
Why Iowa Might Win: While Iowa is has to deal with some big personnel changes, Northern Illinois is undergoing a massive offensive facelift. Gone is Garrett Wolfe, and with him the type of devastating running game the Huskies employed for so many years. Now, under new offensive coordinator Roy Wittke, there will be more passing, more variety and more bells and whistles. Eventually, this will be a plus, but considering the NIU offensive line is one of the team's biggest concerns heading into the season, and Iowa's defensive line is one of the team's biggest strengths, there might not be time or room for the NIU skill players to operate.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: Iowa appeared to have a huge advantage coming into this game in the passing game, with a rising receiving corps almost certain to have its way with the mediocre Huskie secondary, and then disaster struck as head coach Kirk Ferentz announced the indefinite suspensions of Dominique Douglas, who led the team with 49 catches for 654 yards and two touchdowns, and Anthony Bowman, who's one of the team's fastest players. The Hawkeyes still have weapons, but this is the last thing they needed when breaking in new starting QB Jake Christensen.
Who to Watch: Two of the nation's premier pass rushing ends will be on display as NIU's Larry English and Iowa's Ken Iwebema will have the NFL scouts watching. A shoulder injury kept the 267-pound Iwebema out for most of last year, but when healthy, he's one of the Big Ten's best all-around ends with good strength against the run and excellent pass rushing skills. The 6-3 , 255-pound English will be on the short list of MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors with a frightening blend of speed and moves to get into the backfield. He cranked out 12 sacks last year and will be the main focus of the Iowa pass blocking scheme.
What Will Happen: While the loss of the two receivers will hurt the development of the Iowa passing game, Albert Young and the Hawkeye ground attack should be able to pick up the slack. The Iowa defensive front seven should be able to keep the Huskies from doing too much on the ground, and the passing game won't be quite up-to-snuff yet.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 31 ... Northern Illinois 14
... Line: Iowa -11.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 2.5
Final Score: 

Purdue at Toledo 7 pm EST ESPNU
Why to Watch: This is a dangerous game for the Big Ten. Purdue won't be looking ahead to Eastern Illinois, but it might not be taking Toledo completely seriously despite losing the final two games of last year in a slightly disappointing season. The Rockets know all about disappointment after finishing 5-7 in what should've been a MAC title contending season. Toledo is a lot better this year and has a shot against a big name its house for the first time since last year when it came up with a double-overtime win over Kansas in the Glass Bowl. Now the Rockets hope they can keep up in a shootout to start the season off with a confidence-builder before next week's showdown against defending MAC champion Central Michigan. Purdue needs all the early wins it can get with a tough midseason stretch starting at the end of September.
Why Purdue Might Win: If the Toledo corners aren't night-and-day better than last year, this could be really, really ugly. The safeties are tremendous, but the Rockets need plays from the outside after the corners came out of 2006 without an interception. Purdue's receiving corps might be the best in America, at least it's among the deepest, and it should be able to come up with plenty of big plays if the Rocket defensive front doesn't generate any pressure.
Why Toledo Might Win:  Toledo might have concerns at corner, and the defense might not be a brick wall, but Purdue's defense has been MIA for years. The run defense has been shoved around by anyone who tried to run the ball, and the Toledo offensive line, led by All-American John Greco, is good enough to control the line of scrimmage from the opening snap. The Rocket receiving corps has been a disappointment, but it has the size and potential to light up the Purdue secondary if it's not far better than last year.
Who to Watch: And the Toledo starting quarterback is ... ? Actually, sophomore Aaron Opelt is the likely number one, with junior Clint Cochran No. 1A. Opelt has all the talent to run the Toledo spread offense the way it's supposed to, with a great combination of passing and running skills. As good as he was as a freshman, he didn't lead the offense to enough big drives. Cochran is a good passer who has to stay healthy. Each will likely see time early on this year. Trying to stop the Rocket passing game is a Purdue secondary that gets all four starters back, but needs to be far, far tighter. Corner Terrell Vinson has to make a few big plays early on to cut off one side of the field for the Rocket quarterbacks.
What Will Happen: Lots of yards, lots of points, and lots and lots of big plays. This should be a wild shootout with several momentum swings. Purdue will have more offense and will get a good game from QB Curtis Painter on the way to a hard fought, exciting win, but Toledo will have its chances to pull off the upset.
CFN Prediction: Purdue 38 ... Toledo 30
... Line: Purdue -7
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 3
Final Score: 

Indiana State at Indiana  8 pm EST Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: It'll be a tough game for Indiana, and it'll have nothing to do with what'll happen on the field. This will be the first game for the Hoosiers after the tragic death of head coach Terry Hoeppner, and there's no question it'll be one of the program's most emotional games to get through. Pulling off a win over an Indiana State team that went 1-10 last year, with one of the worst defenses in D-IAA, shouldn't be a problem, but getting by Western Michigan next week in Kalamazoo will be a battle. The Hoosiers have to overcome the outside emotion to tune up for when the real games begin. 
Why Indiana State Might Win: The only way the Sycamores have a shot to make this interesting is if the passing game gets going early and doesn't let up. Most of the passing stats last year came in catch-up mode, but seniors Reilly Murphy and Ben Schmidt can throw and could push the offense if the Hoosiers let down. ISU has to hope IU makes lots of mistakes and comes up with plenty of turnovers for this to be close.
Why Indiana Might Win:  ISU can't play defense, and IU should be able to do whatever it wants to. This is the game to get the running game going, and for QB Kellen Lewis to get some target practice in. This will be one of the rare times Indiana can play around and work on the things it needs to without worrying about losing.
Who to Watch: Lewis and the passing game should be more than fine throughout the year, but for Indiana to make any noise in the Big Ten, the ground game has to get going. Marcus Thigpen is a next-level kickoff returner and on almost everyone's All-America list, but he has to show he can be the type of running back who can produce on a consistent basis. He led the team in rushing last year with a mere 387 yards and two touchdowns. He'll need to triple that this season, and it all starts here.
What Will Happen: No way, no how will Indiana come out with anything less than an inspired performance. In normal times, ISU would be horribly overmatched, much less with fire to win one for Hoeppner.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 45 ... Indiana State 16
... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 1
Final Score: 

Bowling Green at Minnesota 8 pm EST Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: No one's quite sure what to make of new Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, but if nothing else, he'll sure make things interesting. A true rah-rah type of college coach, he's all energy and all fire, but he's also not allowing his team to be anything less than great right off the bat. This begins a two-game series against the MAC for the Gophers, with Miami University coming up next week, and along with a date against Florida Atlantic, they must sharpen up in a hurry to take advantage of a relatively easy start to the Big Ten season. Bowling Green, who's also breaking in several new coaches, gave Wisconsin all it could handle in last year's season opener, and with an improved team and good options on offense, it could pull off the upset with the right breaks.
Why Bowling Green Might Win: BGSU is one of the few teams that should be able to run with the Gophers. With a great backfield trio of Eric Ransom, Chris Bullock and Dan Macon, the Falcons could control the tempo against a decent, but not sensational, Gopher defensive front. After the way Minnesota blew the Insight Bowl against Texas Tech, all the pressure will be on the Maroon and Gold side to win and win big. The longer this stays close, the tighter the collar will get.
Why Minnesota Might Win: Bowling Green has a quick, athletic defensive front that'll emphasize making big plays, but it's not all that big and could get pushed around by the better offensive lines. This might not be the Gopher front five of recent years, but it's more than good enough get the spread offense working with enough athleticism and quickness to open some big holes for the shifty running backs. While there might not be a lot of pounding, the ground game will be more effective than Bowling Green's.
Who to Watch: Each team is still trying to figure out its quarterback situation. Anthony Turner was Bowling Green's main man last year and appeared to be the main man going into spring ball but Tyler Sheehan was a little bit better and now appears to have an inside line on the job. Sheehan is a big passer who should get the Falcon air attack going again, while Turner is more mobile. For Minnesota, it's whoever runs the spread better. Junior Tony Mortensen has a wee bit more experience and is getting every chance to start, but the more mobile redshirt freshman Adam Weber appears to be the favorite for the most playing time early on, and the better fit, after mostly practicing with the first team this summer. While both Bowling Green quarterbacks might play, Brewster has stated that whoever's the starter will be the starter without changing things around.
What Will Happen: It might not be a pretty game, and if you're into big passing numbers this won't be for you. Minnesota's offensive line will be the difference, but Bowling Green is good enough to make this a fight for three quarters.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 31 ... Bowling Green 14
... Line: Minnesota -16.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 2
Final Score: 

Big Ten Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 1


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