Big 10 Fearless Predictions, Sept. 13, Part 2
Wisconsin QB Allan Evridge
Wisconsin QB Allan Evridge
Posted Jul 16, 2008

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

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

Big 10 Fearless Predictions  Aug. 30 | Sept. 6 

How are the picks so far? SU: 20-1 ... ATS: 9-5

- Big 10 Week Three Fearless Predictions

Saturday, September 13

Michigan (1-1) at Notre Dame (1-0), 3:30 EST  NBC
Why to watch: Yes, Michigan and Notre Dame really are playing this weekend. What used to be one of the must-see games of the year between college football’s two winningest programs has now been relegated to second-tier status after an ugly start by Michigan and a brutal Notre Dame win over San Diego State. The Irish of this year looked a whole bunch like the Irish of last year in a 21-13 win over an Aztec team that lost to Cal Poly, but on the plus side, Notre Dame is on a three-game winning streak. Michigan beat Miami University last week 16-6, but it has hardly looked like Michigan with little consistency on offense whatsoever. The Wolverines get battles with Wisconsin and Illinois to follow the trip to South Bend, while Notre Dame gets a trip to Michigan State. Basically, the way the two teams have played so far, the loser is about to go on a bad streak unless something changes in a big hurry.
Why Michigan might win: Jimmy Clausen’s backside, be prepared to see the turf for most of the afternoon. The key number for the Irish against San Diego State was 0. That’s how many sacks the much-maligned offensive line allowed, but now it’s about to be tested. San Diego State has no pass rush whatsoever, while Michigan, for all its flaws so far, has been great at getting into the backfield with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss, tops in the Big Ten in both categories. The pathetic Irish running game isn’t going anywhere on the stout Wolverine defensive front. 
Why Notre Dame might win: The Wolverines are doing a great impression of the 2007 Notre Dame offense. Against Utah and Miami University, who each have good defenses, but not great ones, Michigan has averaged 242 yards per game with a total of 214 rushing yards in the two games. It’s early, but Michigan is last in the Big Ten in every major offensive category, and while Notre Dame’s defense isn’t a brick wall, it’s good enough to keep the Wolverines from exploding.
Who to watch: The struggling Michigan offense gets a boost from the return of three key skill players. Running backs Michael Shaw (groin) and Carlos Brown (shoulder) should each be ready to roll again, while the team’s best receiver, Greg Mathews, is back after missing the Miami games with an ankle problem. All will be less than 100%, but all will play.
What will happen: Eight sacks. That’s how many the Michigan defense will generate, the secondary will come up with a pick six, and Steven Threet will have an efficient day throwing the ball. The Irish offense will revert back to its early 2007 form.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 24 … Notre Dame 10 ... Line: PICK
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 3
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Penn State (2-0) at Syracuse (0-2), 3:30 EST, ABC
Why to watch: Penn State and Syracuse renew an old Eastern rivalry that’s been dormant for almost two decades. Unfortunately, only one of the participants is playing as if it belongs in the FBS, let alone this game. As much of the Big Ten shows warts, the Nittany Lions have raised their profile, mauling Oregon State a week after disposing of Coastal Carolina. There’s genuine excitement surrounding the new spread offense, which is getting maximum production from QB Darryl Clark and the running tandem of Evan Royster and Stephon Green. Every time it looks like Syracuse has reached a new level ineptitude, it takes out a shovel and digs a little deeper. Now 0-2 after getting roughed up by Akron, the Orange is struggling for something positive to rally around. Alas, lowly Northeastern visits the Carrier Dome in a week.
Why Penn State might win: As good as the Nittany Lion skill position players have been, it’s the offensive line that’s really made the offense hum over the first two weeks. Gerald Cadogan, A.Q. Shipley, and the rest of front wall have dominated, failing to yield a sack and paving the way for the Big Ten’s top offense. The unit will toy with a Syracuse defense that’s been manhandled in both of its games. Penn State will continue to mix things up on offense, getting little resistance from the Orange.
Why Syracuse might win: With Cameron Dantley at the controls, the Orange offense showed a pulse in the loss to Akron, scoring four touchdowns and displaying rare balance. Dantley accounted for three of those scores, getting a helping hand from the running game. Curtis Brinkley and Delone Carter were solid, combining for 220, and will have continued success against a Penn State defensive line that’s the program’s weakest link. Brinkley and Carter will need to control the clock to keep the Lion offense on the sidelines.
Who to watch: Clark was a serious question mark heading into the season, but he’s already earned the confidence of the staff and the fans. A strong, stocky player, he’s beginning to look like Michael Robinson with better passing skills. If he continues to develop within this offense, Penn State will be a tough out.
What will happen: On Friday night, the premiere of “The Express”, a movie about Ernie Davis, will take place at Syracuse’s historic Landmark Theatre. It’ll be all downhill after that for the Orange who’ll have no answers for a Penn State offense that’s just beginning to hit its stride.

CFN Prediction: Penn State 41 … Syracuse 14 ... Line: Penn State -27.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 2
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Oregon (2-0) at Purdue (1-0), 3:30 EST, ABC
Why to watch: As Big Ten-Pac-10 match ups go, Oregon-Purdue isn’t exactly USC-Ohio State, but it’ll be a strong, entertaining undercard in the second meeting between the two since a 1979 13-7 Boilermaker win. The Ducks have gotten off to a terrific start, winning its first two games by an average margin of 37 points. However, the AP’s 16th-ranked team has yet to play a road game or an opponent with postseason potential routing Washington and Utah State. Purdue opened its season with a matter-of-fact blowout of Northern Colorado. The Boilermakers were sloppier than the 42-10 indicated, needing to make improvements as the level of competition increases. The maligned Big Ten could use a win here, especially if the Buckeyes lose at Troy, but it would be a bigger win for a Purdue team that’s known for beating the teams it’s supposed to, and also losing to the teams it’s supposed to.
Why Oregon might win: No Dennis Dixon. No Jonathan Stewart. No problem. Even with a retooled backfield, the Ducks are cranking out touchdowns like a Pez dispenser. They’ve been a machine through two weeks, leading the country in total offense and showing tremendous depth at the skill positions. Justin Roper will have success through the air versus an average Boiler pass defense, and the running duo of Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount has been prolific. The Oregon line is physical and experienced enough to control Purdue’s interior, the strength of the defense
Why Purdue might win: Although Oregon will score, Purdue has the weapons to keep pace. Curtis Painter is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, a veteran who won’t be rattled by the Ducks’ pressure defense. He’ll stand in the pocket and play catch with a group of receivers that’s more than just Greg Orton. Desmond Tardy and Keith Smith played the opener as if they plan to be integral parts of the passing game, as well. When the Boilers keep it on the ground, Kory Sheets is a breakaway threat with good moves in the open field. While Oregon has an opportunistic D, it is flexible and gives up plenty of yards.
Who to watch: The game-within-the-game worth watching is Painter vs. the Oregon secondary. Cornerbacks Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, and safety Patrick Chung, give the Ducks one of the most athletic and disruptive defensive backfields in the country. If Painter keeps putting too much air under his passes, or has to force his throws, the Oregon pass defense will take two or three of them back the other way.
What will happen: This is a huge test for an Oregon program that feels it can sneak into the Top 10 before Pac-10 play resumes. The Ducks will earn a passing grade by winning the turnover battle and getting 250 yards between tackles Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou.
CFN Prediction: Oregon 38 … Purdue 28 ... Line: Oregon -7.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 3.5
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Wisconsin (2-0) at Fresno State (1-0), 10:30 EST ESPN2
Why to watch: If it’s possible for a BCS-conference powerhouse with 40 wins in the last four years leading to four straight New Year’s Day bowls to need a win over a non-BCS team, this is the game. Wisconsin, if it can get healthy, has a good enough team to be a sleeper threat to play for the national title, but it has to prove it can get by a nasty non-conference road game. A win in Fresno might do more for the Badgers’ credibility than a win over Michigan in Ann Arbor in two weeks. After running over Akron and picking off Marshall in dominant wins, the trip to Fresno kicks off a brutal stretch with the game at Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, at Iowa, Illinois, and at Michigan State to follow. Meanwhile, Fresno State has had a week off to bask in a dominant and impressive 24-7 win over Rutgers. This is the best team Pat Hill has ever put together, and a win this week, and at UCLA a few weeks from now, would set the wheels in motion for a BCS bid as long as there aren’t any major mess-ups along the way. But that’s for down the line. For now, Fresno State can regain its reputation as a giant killer if it can get by the Badgers.
Why Wisconsin might win: This is a really, really good Badger team that doesn’t lose games like this. The last regular-season non-conference loss came in a 2003 stunner against UNLV. This is a balanced, veteran team led by the best offensive line the school has had since Barry Alvarez retired. Rutgers can’t run the ball with Ray Rice off playing for the Baltimore Ravens, so.don’t get hung up on Fresno State’s good day against the Scarlet Knight ground game. A banged up, patchwork Bulldog linebacking corps could have a long night if the Badger backs start getting into the second level.
Why Fresno State might win: Speed, athleticism, toughness and confidence. This Fresno State team has it all, and it’ll be jacked up to face a team like Wisconsin in one of the most important home games in the school’s excellent football history. The Badger defense has yet to be slugged in the mouth, and the Fresno State running game should be able to do it with Ryan Mathews good enough to come up with a huge day against a still-healing UW defensive front.
Who to watch: The Badgers were able to win their first two games with ease despite missing two of the best players in America. Tight end Travis Beckum could’ve played through a hamstring injury if needed against Marshall. As the joke went, the training staff had to hide his helmet to keep him off the field. The odds-on favorite to win the Mackey Award is ready to go this week to team with Garrett Graham to form an NFL-caliber tight end duo for QB Allan Evridge to work with. On defense, the Badgers welcome the return of their star linebacker and leading tackler, Jonathan Casillas. He was out the first two games with a knee injury, but the all-star will be back just in time to butt heads with Mathews.
What will happen: Fresno State will load up on the line to stop the run forcing Evridge to win the game. He won’t be able to do it. He’ll throw two bad interceptions, the Bulldogs will show a nice mix of offensive balance, and it’ll be time to get the BCS buster talk into full swing.
CFN Prediction: Fresno State 23 … Wisconsin 20 ... Line: PICK
Must See Rating: (5 Hole in the Wall - 1 First Blood) … 4.5
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- Big 10 Week Three Fearless Predictions