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Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Aug. 30
Illinois WR Arrelious Benn
Illinois WR Arrelious Benn
Posted Jul 16, 2008

Previews and Predictions for the Week 1 Big Ten Games

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Big Ten Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2

Big Ten Game of the Week

Illinois vs. Missouri (in St. Louis), 8:30 EST, ESPN
Why to watch: Last year at this time, would you have believed that this matchup would be a battle between a future No. 1 Missouri vs. a Rose Bowl bound Illinois? The Tigers won 40-34 after jumping out to a big early lead and then hanging on, and now they're looking to make a big early statement as the potential star of the Big 12, or at least the North. On the other side, Illinois has far more rebounding to do and far more question marks, but this is still a strong team that's looking to improve upon last year's breakout success. It might be a big upset if the Illini can pull off the win, but it would be a huge feather in the Big Ten's cap if it happens. Meanwhile, if the Big 12 really is supposed to be a challenger to the SEC in the best-conference-in-America argument, Mizzou can't just win, but it has to win convincingly. It's a BCS-game being played in August, and it's one of the marquee non-conference games of 2008.
Why Illinois might win: The defense should be the best the Tigers have to deal with until Texas in mid-October, and there's a chance it could be even better. There have been major issues on the line with injuries and a transfer killing the depth, but the front seven should be good enough to keep the Tiger running game under wraps for long stretches, while the pass rush should be steady. On the offensive side, the Illinois offensive line should be dominant at times. The Tigers have a great defensive front, but the Illini has a huge advantage up front.
Why Missouri might win: The Tigers have the better all-around talent and should be able to push the ball deep offensively. Illinois can move, Ron Zook's recent recruiting classes have ensured that, but Missouri is loaded from top to bottom with a more experienced, more talented team than last year's breakthrough power. Yes, Illinois has an All-America talent in Vontae Davis to work around in the secondary, but the corners are suspect and the overall pass defense isn't going to be a rock. When Daniel gets time, he should be able to pick apart the Illini without a problem.
Who to watch: The All-America receivers. The spotlight early on will likely be on the quarterbacks, with Daniel and Juice Williams each among the nation's most dynamic playmakers, but the real stars will likely be Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin and Illinois' Arrelious Benn. Maclin is the all-around star who'll make big plays as a runner and return man as well as a receiver, and with an off-season to prepare, the Tiger coaching staff will invent a variety of ways to get its main man the ball. Benn is just as dangerous a gamebreaker, and he'll have to be special with the Illini running game not likely to be anywhere near as strong without Rashard Mendenhall. Missouri can win if Maclin isn't tremendous, but Illinois probably can't win unless Benn goes ballistic.
What will happen: This should be a better defensive battle than last year's shootout, at least for the first half, and then the quarterbacks will take over. Both Daniel and Williams will be tremendous, but the Tiger defense will be a little bit better, and the offense will be more efficient when it needs to be.
CFN Prediction: Missouri 34 ... Illinois 27 ... Line: Missouri -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 90210 - 1 90210, at least what you’ll say among your friends) … 5
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Saturday, August 30

Syracuse at Northwestern, 12:00 EST, ESPN2
Why to watch: If you’re looking for a sleeper out of the Big Ten, Northwestern just might be it. The Wildcats have a fleet of talent on offense, a young, third-year coach settling into the job, and a schedule that generate instant momentum. After fumbling opportunities to get to the postseason, head coach Pat Fitzgerald shook up the staff in an attempt to prevent a repeat performance. New offensive coordinator Mick McCall has installed a no-huddle offense that could get unheralded QB C.J. Bacher, the Big Ten’s leader in total offense last season, the notoriety he deserves. The more things change, the more they stay the same for Syracuse, which is trying to save Greg Robinson’s job and snap a string of four straight losing seasons. The consensus preseason choice to occupy the Big East basement, the Orange recently lost top receiver Mike Williams and starting DE Brandon Gilbeaux to academic issues.
Why Syracuse might win: The Northwestern secondary is a work-in-progress, and Orange QB Andrew Robinson will be looking to exploit it. He progressed well in his first season as a starter, finishing with 13 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. The expected returns of backs Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley finally give defenses a reason to defend the run, opening things up for Robinson to find Donte Davis and Lavar Lobdell. Disruptive NT Arthur Jones is capable of wreaking havoc against a Wildcat offensive line breaking in three new starters.
Why Northwestern might win: The Orange doesn’t have the weapons on offense to keep up with a Wildcat offense loaded with playmakers and potential. With Bacher at the controls, Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh running the ball, and three of the top four receivers back, Northwestern can simply out gun Syracuse. The feeble Orange offensive line will have its hands full with the strength of the Wildcat defense, a rugged, physical defensive line that could quietly be among the best in the Big Ten.
Who to watch: With tackle John Gill sitting the game out, the headliner of the Wildcat D-line will be end Corey Wootton, a man-child who’ll face a Syracuse line that allowed 54 sacks a year ago. At 6-7 and 270 pounds, he has NFL size and potential if he can show more acceleration off the edge. Without Gill to attract attention on the inside, the ends must get more pressure than last season if the pass defense is going to have a chance.
What will happen: With the program confident and headed in a northern direction, Northwestern will use Syracuse to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Of the 10 best players on the field, nine of them will be wearing purple, and it’ll show in a one-sided win for the Wildcats.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 37... Syracuse 20 ... Line: Northwestern -12
Must See Rating: (5 90210 - 1 90210, at least what you’ll say among your friends) … 2
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Western Kentucky at Indiana, 12: 00 PM EST, Big Ten Network
Why to watch: Western Kentucky is in limbo as it waits one more year before jumping into the Sun Belt as a full FBS member. In the meantime, the Hilltoppers will look to make some noise and jump start a potentially decent season. Indiana is coming off a breakthrough season that finished off with a bowl loss to Oklahoma State, and now it's vital to get off to a hot start. The Big Ten season isn't going to be easier than last year, but fortunately for IU, the non-conference slate is squishy soft. However, WMU isn't going to be a pushover.
Why Western Kentucky might win: The Hilltopper running game should be fantastic, and IU needs to show that it can handle a good ground attack. WKU averaged 247 yards per game last season helped by its two quarterback system, and it'll be more of the same for the Hoosiers to deal with. While the IU defensive front should be tremendous, it'll be tested.
Why Indiana might win: WKU's secondary should be an Achilles heel. A major problem throughout last season, IU will start pushing the ball deep early on to loosen things up. The Hoosier offensive line isn't good enough to pound away with, but Kellen Lewis and the new quick-timing passing game. That's if ...
Who to watch: ... Lewis is actually the main man. He's the team's signature star and the veteran to work around, but after being suspended for spring ball and missing significant time this off-season, Ben Chappell is in the hunt for playing time, if not the starting gig. Chappell got the most work in the new quick-timing passing game, and he was fantastic at times showing enough to warrant meaningful time even when, not if, Lewis becomes the leader again.
What will happen: Indiana's offense will have its problems as it struggles with the timing and the speed of the live game, but the defense will pick up the slack. WKU will try to test the new starting corners, but the Hoosier defensive front will provide the pressure to help the cause.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 31 ... Western Kentucky 20 ... Line: Indiana -21
Must See Rating: (5 90210 - 1 90210, at least what you’ll say among your friends) … 2
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Youngstown State at Ohio State, 12:00 EST, Big Ten Network
Why to watch: How ready is Ohio State to get back on the field? After a second straight brutal off-season of angst and ridicule for daring to lose a national title game to a fantastic team, the Buckeyes will be looking to prove early on that they deserve to be considered the nation's best team. And why not? With almost all the starters and all the talent returning in all phases, this is the most complete team in America. Of course, only a national title win over an SEC team will silence the critics, and Youngstown State is hardly an SEC-caliber power. This is OSU head man Jim Tressel's former team he's going with, and it's good enough to be considered a threat to win the FCS national title. Even so, this is part one of a two-week warm-up for the Buckeyes before the USC game.
Why Youngstown State might win: The Penguins can play a little bit of defense. The 14th best FCS scoring defense returns with enough talent to be excellent again, while the offensive line is tremendous in pass protections. YSU doesn't give up sacks and it should allow new starting quarterback Todd Rowan enough time to work against a Buckeye secondary hit by suspensions. 
Why Ohio State might win: The defense isn't going to give up many big plays. YSU is a good, sound team, but it won't be explosive. It'll win big in FCS play with its defense and great O line, but to stay with Ohio State, the home runs have to come early and often. They won't. As the game goes on, OSU's offensive line should control the tempo and give all the skill players as much time as they need to work.
Who to watch: So how much will Terrelle Pryor play? While it might not be said out loud, Ohio State would love nothing more than to get a few quick scores to be able to throw the prized freshman to the wolves. Considering YSU doesn't have the offensive pop to hurt the Buckeyes if Pryor makes mistakes, this is as safe a time as any to get him on the field. If nothing else, he needs to get some work in to get USC thinking and game-planning two weeks from now.
What will happen: Ohio State can call its shot, but Tressel isn't going to run it up on his former program. Expect big throws early to end the fun, and running throughout the second half with Pryor being the big story.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 38 ... Youngstown State 3 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 90210 - 1 90210, at least what you’ll say among your friends) … 1
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Coastal Carolina at Penn State, 12:00 EST, Big Ten Network
Why to watch: Penn State has had a rough off-season with suspensions, questioning from the media about a program seemingly out of control (at least according to a sensationalized TV piece), and the persistent questions about Joe Paterno's retirement. What hasn't been talked about is that Penn State should be good. Really good. However, it's putting in an up-tempo, quicker passing offense that needs to have the timing down before Oregon State comes to town next week. Coastal Carolina will provide more than just a scrimmage with a veteran team that should be among the stars of the Big South.
Why Coastal Carolina might win: The Penn State offense might not be in place yet. It took all summer to figure out the quarterback situation in Happy Valley, and it's still up for debate. Meanwhile, the offense will need to get the timing down and be far more efficient than it was this off-season in practices. Coastal Carolina might have plenty of veteran talent, but it's coming off a disappointing season and has several question marks primarily at ...
Why Penn State might win: Quarterback. The Chaticleers have far bigger quarterback problems than Penn State, who's merely trying to figure out which option will see more playing time. William Richardson was last year's starter for CCU, but he was going to be bounced out by Jamie Childers before suffering a case of viral meningitis. On the other side of the ball, this was a very opportunistic Coastal Carolina defense, but it wasn't very good. Penn State should be able to hammer away with the running game.
Who to watch: Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin have been neck-and-neck for the starting job, and while Clark is the better fit, and will start, Devlin will see more than his share of action. Penn State isn't above going to a two quarterback system. Consider this an audition for the rest of the year. If one significantly outplays the other, the job is there for the taking.
What will happen: Four Penn State turnovers will keep this from being a total joke, but Coastal Carolina won't have enough in the bag on either side of the ball to keep pace in the second half.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 45 ... Coastal Carolina 0 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 90210 - 1 90210, at least what you’ll say among your friends) … 1
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- Big Ten Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2