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Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Sept 15, Part 2
Posted Sep 12, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 Big Ten Games, Part 2

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

Big Ten Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17    

Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 1

SEC Saturday, Sept. 15

Pitt (2-0) at Michigan State (2-0) 12:00 PM ESPN
Why to watch: The two teams face off for the second straight year in a pivotal crossroads game for both schools.  Win, and you’ve got the wind at your back as the toughest portion of the schedule begins.  Lose, and the memories of the past few disappointing seasons begin to resurface.  Both programs know the fast start/slow finish routine all too well, and both are desperately looking to put their demons behind them and play well early on.  The Spartans have opened with wins over UAB and Bowling Green, displaying the physicality on defense and in the running game that’s consistent with the personalities of new head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.  With the help of numerous underclassmen, the Panthers have fought through some injuries to shoo aside Eastern Michigan and Grambling State.  A road trip to an improving Big Ten team is just the type of step up game that’ll tell plenty about the progress Pitt is making under Dave Wannstedt.
Why Pittsburgh might win: In both games this month, Michigan State showed hints of its youth at cornerback, allowing too many yards through the air to average quarterbacks.  The Panthers can expose that weakness with a big and dynamic receiving corps that includes Oderick Turner, Marcel Pestano, and TE Nate Byham.  On the contrary, Brian Hoyer and the Spartans will have problems achieving offensive balance against a Pitt secondary that’s allowed just a single touchdown pass to teams that were determined to establish the pass.
Why Michigan State might win: Behind a huge line and the diverse combo of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, the Spartans have the talent to run at the Pittsburgh defense without much of a problem.  The Panthers have gotten away with playing two poor running teams to open the season, but all that changes on Saturday when the Big Ten’s No. 2 running game exposes Pitt’s shaky front seven.  At the worst possible time, the Panthers have also lost for the season DT Gus Mustakas, easily the most productive of the team’s interior linemen. If MSU can establish the ground game on the inside, everything will open up everywhere else.
Who to watch
: Like a throwback player from a half-century ago, Michigan State’s Kellen Davis is contributing to both sides of the ball for the Spartans.  As a tight end, the 6-6, 250-pounder is second on the team in receptions and hauled in his first touchdown catch of the season last Saturday.  As a part-time defensive end, he’s had a sack in each game, and is helping spark a revival of a Michigan State pass rush that was nonexistent in 2006. He’s a top pro prospect who needs to put it all together to make a lot of money next year, and he’s beginning to do it.
What will happen: This game will be won on the ground.  Pitt’s LeSean McCoy is a budding star, but for now, advantage Michigan State.  The Spartans will wear down the Panther D, and land a long pass or two to WR Devin Thomas when the defense over commits to the run.     

CFN Prediction: Michigan State 30 ... Pitt 17
... Line: Michigan State -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 3

(1-1) at Florida Atlantic (1-1)  1:00 PM
Why to Watch: With the way Minnesota played in its first two weeks, going into overtime against both Bowling Green and Miami University, it can't take anyone lightly. Now Tim Brewster's team has to go on the road to face a spunky Florida Atlantic squad with a good defense and enough fight to make this a tougher-than-expected battle. The Owls all but shut down the same Middle Tennessee that blew up against Louisville with a Sun Belt-statement making 27-14 opening day win, but had to deal with a fired up Oklahoma State team last week in a 42-6 loss. If Minnesota has any dreams of doing anything in Big Ten play, or to go to a bowl, it has to win this game impressively and start to establish something positive before facing Purdue.
Why Minnesota Might Win: The Gopher defense desperately needs a break, and it'll get it this week. FAU doesn't have enough in the bag to put up big numbers against anyone, and while the defense should be fine, at times, it'll struggle against quick teams with good offensive balance. Minnesota's problems haven't been on offense, where the running game has averaged 276 yards per game and the passing game has been efficient enough to win with. A quick early lead should be enough to get the job done.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: If FAU can somehow keep this close into the fourth quarter, the elements might take over. Brewster has tried to simulate the humidity of south Florida by making the Minnesota indoor practice facility hot, but it's not the same as actually fighting through the sticky weather against a live opponent. For FAU to win, Minnesota needs to screw up a lot. Considering how turnovers, penalties, and strange defensive lapses have been an issue over the first two games, the Owls will probably get plenty of chances to make some big things happen.
Who to Watch: Call the last few weeks a step back, at times, to eventually take a giant leap forward for redshirt freshman QB Adam Weber. Brewster's offense has been effective so far, but Weber hasn't been sharp for a full sixty minutes yet. He runs well, came up with four touchdown passes against Miami, and has come up with a few clutch drives. Now he needs to be consistent, more accurate, and do even more to keep defenses from focusing solely on RB Amir Pinnix.
What Will Happen: For about a half, Florida Atlantic will believe it has a shot to pull off a huge upset and put a big feather in the Sun Belt's cap. Then the Minnesota offensive line will take over, and the Owls won't be able to come up with the second half drives needed to keep pace.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 34 ... Florida Atlantic 17
... Line: Minnesota -9.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1.5

Iowa (2-0) at Iowa State (0-2)
  1:30 PM  
Why to Watch: The painful "throw out the record book" cliché here as Iowa State always gives Iowa problems. The Cyclones would like to throw out the first two games of the Gene Chizik era, losing home games to Kent State and Northern Iowa, and looking awful in both. As bad as things have been, the season can take a wicked 180-degree turn if the Cyclones can pull off their magic against an Iowa team that struggled against Northern Illinois, and then dominated Syracuse in a 35-0 stomping. With a showdown against Wisconsin next week, Iowa could use a breather of a game to work on getting all the young players and the backups some meaningful work, but this is a rivalry game. Iowa State will have other ideas.
Why Iowa Might Win: When in doubt, when Iowa State starts to get a little bit of momentum, Iowa should be able to rely on the lines and come through with a long drive, or a stuffing stop, when it absolutely needs to. The Cyclone running game hasn't been bad, but it's about to hit a brick wall against a Hawkeye defensive front that's swallowing up the run. Iowa State's biggest problem has been turning the ball over and making big mistakes, and with the fearsome Hawkeye pass rush sure to pressure Bret Meyer, there should be several opportunities to force turnovers. Northern Illinois and Syracuse aren't great, but they're better than Iowa State and they combined to net 45 rushing yards.
Why Iowa State Might Win: Iowa State's defense hasn't been awful so far, and it should play just well enough to keep the game close. The offense has been the issue, and the run defense has struggled, but the secondary has done a good job so far, while the defensive front has generated decent pressure. This is an entirely different animal for new Iowa QB Jake Christensen, as he'll now have to deal with a road game in a rivalry game. Better Iowa teams than this have fallen to the Cyclones in the past. Iowa State will play like this is its Super Bowl.
Who to Watch: It's time for Bret Meyer to save his season and come up with his first really good performance against Iowa. Meyer is 1-2 against the Hawkeyes, and while he ran well last year, he struggled mightily to get anything going in the passing game with just 152 yards, 154 the year before, and 100 as a freshman. He had to do everything for the offense last week, but while he threw for 255 yards, he didn't throw a touchdown pass and tossed two picks. For Iowa State to have any shot, he can't just be effective; he has to be brilliant. For that to happen, it's time for WR Todd Blythe to show up. With only seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first two games, he hasn't been able to help the struggling attack.
What Will Happen: The emotion of the game will carry Iowa State for a half, as the defense forces a few Iowa mistakes, but the Cyclone offense will be shut down in the second half. The Iowa defensive line will be the difference.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 23 ... Iowa State 10
... Line: Iowa -17
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Ohio State
(2-0) at Washington (2-0) 3:30 PM ESPN
Why to watch: Although it’s not going to be a preview of the Rose Bowl, this week’s game in Seattle between the Buckeyes and Huskies has suddenly turned into one of the banner interconference match ups of Week 3.  Washington is flying high after upsetting Boise State to end the nation’s longest winning streak, while reaching 2-0 for the first time in six years.  The Huskies are beginning to knock on the door under Tyrone Willingham, but while beating Boise State was nice, getting a win over Ohio State would finally return the program to national prominence, while being a huge feather in the Pac 10’s cap.  The Buckeyes are also 2-0 with a defense that appears to be even better than last year’s, and light years ahead of what it was in the BCS Championship debacle.  The surprise so far has been how futile the offense has been in lethargic wins over Youngstown State and Akron.  For a program still looking for national love after being pantsed by Florida, beating Washington would go a long way to showing that things haven’t changed too much. Also, this has become the one possible stumbling block for a possible 8-0 start.
Why Ohio State might win: Washington has thrived against two of finesse teams, but how will it respond when the Buckeyes line up and pop it right in the mouth? The Ohio State defense has been as good as advertised through two games, allowing just 245 yards and two field goals over that period.  The front seven, led by LB James Laurinaitis, rarely misses tackles, and is more than capable of being the first team to make QB Jake Locker play like a freshman.  Don’t expect Locker to break off many big runs against this crew. If the game becomes tight, OSU has a huge edge in special teams, and that might be all the difference with field position and placekicking likely to play a big role.
Why Washington might win: For all of the attention that Locker’s been receiving, the Huskies might not be unbeaten without the play of the defense.  In games versus Syracuse and Boise State, Washington has allowed just a pair of touchdowns and has been stout against the run.  The way to beat the Huskies these days is through the air; however, Ohio State has struggled in the passing game with new starting QB Todd Boeckman.  The same Buckeye attack that broke a sweat to score 20 points on Akron won’t generate many big plays against a Husky defense that’s gelling on the fly.  OSU’s problem? The line has been merely average, while UW has cranked out nine sacks in the first two games.                                  
Who to watch: In just his second season at Washington, LB E.J. Savannah is growing into one of the Huskies’ most dependable defenders.  While Laurinaitis will be the name linebacker everyone will be focusing on, with 19 tackles so far this year, Savannah has been just as good. Blessed with outstanding instincts and range from the weakside, he’ll be spying Ohio State RB Chris Wells all afternoon.          
What will happen: Is it Washington’s time to show it belongs to be back at the big boy table? Yes, but the Ohio State run defense will keep the Huskies from pulling off the big upset. It’ll come down to special teams. Ohio State’s will come through; Washington’s won’t. The Buckeyes are gunning for this game as a chance to get back a measure of respectability, and it’ll play like it.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 23 .. Washington 17 ... Line: Ohio State -4.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 4

(0-2) at Northwestern (2-0) 8:00 PM Big Ten Network
Why to Watch: There's a recent history between the two top-notch academic institutions with Northwestern winning five in a row since Duke thumped the Wildcats 44-10 in 1998. After a brutally ugly start, losing to Connecticut and Virginia by a combined score of 69 to 27, the Blue Devils desperately need a good performance to break the 22-game losing streak before facing Navy next week. After that, the schedule only gets tougher with the only reasonable shot at pulling off a win not coming until the rivalry date with North Carolina to end the season. If Duke goes 0-12, it'll take the losing streak up to 32 games, two shy of the dubious record set by Northwestern from 1979 to 1982, but that's still a long way off. For now, Northwestern can't look past the Blue Devils to Ohio State and Michigan. The Wildcats needed a last-minute comeback to stun Nevada, and while they're 2-0, they're still searching for consistency on both sides of the ball. A win would give Northwestern just its second 3-0 start since 1965.
Why Duke Might Win: The Wildcats aren't getting the production from the lines that was expected early on. The offensive line has been fine for the ground game, but has struggled in pass protection. The defensive line has gotten into the backfield, but has struggled against the run. Duke has to take advantage of this. Getting into the backfield has been one of the only things the defense has been able to do reasonably well, while there's decent talent in the backfield to finally get the running game going. However ...
Why Northwestern Might Win: ... the defense made the mediocre Connecticut and Virginia offenses look like the Indianapolis Colts. The Huskies and Cavaliers are severely deficient in receiver talent, and have mediocre passing quarterbacks, but the Blue Devil secondary couldn't do anything against either air attack. Northwestern has a balanced offense that's getting timely passing and good production out of the receiving corps. A ten-point lead against this Duke team might as well be a 55-point margin.
Who to Watch: The pressure will be on the Wildcat passing game to produce with star RB Tyrell Sutton likely to be out with an ankle injury. Senior Brandon Roberson picked up the slack against Nevada with 128 yards and a touchdown, but he's never had to be the workhorse before. He broke off a 76-yard dash against Nevada, and while he likely won't have to hit any home runs, he'll have to be consistent enough to make Duke worry about the run. For Duke, someone has to emerge to help the ground game. Justin Boyle only has 45 yards on 13 carries, and he's the team's leading rusher.
What Will Happen: Duke will finally show a little bit of offense, but it won't matter. Northwestern will get a crisp game out of QB C.J. Bacher, and it won't need any last minute heroics.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 27 ... Duke 16
... Line: Northwestern -16.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2


Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 1


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