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Big 10 Fearless Predictions, Sept. 27, Part 2
Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton
Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton
Posted Sep 23, 2008

Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 Big Ten Games

ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA
| M-West | Pac 10 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC

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

Big 10 Fearless Predictions  Aug. 30 | Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20 

How are the picks so far? SU: 33-6 ... ATS: 17-13

- Big 10 Week Five Fearless Predictions

Saturday, September 27

Northwestern (4-0) at Iowa (3-1), 12:00 EST, ESPN Classic
Why to watch: Iowa might be a strong home team, but it wasn’t able to beat Northwestern the last time the two played in Iowa City. 6-5 against the Hawkeyes over the last 11 meetings, the Wildcats have done more than hold their own. Now they need a win to go 5-0 for the first time since 1962, and with home games against Michigan State and Purdue to follow, and relatively light road dates at Indiana and Minnesota after that, this could be the biggest battle on the way to a truly special start to the season. Of course, that’s getting ahead about 57 steps considering Northwestern struggled against teams like Duke and Ohio. Iowa has been dismissed a bit after losing to Pitt in a 21-20 battle, but the defense has been tremendous over the first month and the offense has found a decent running game. With three road dates in the next four games, the Hawkeyes need this win to show that the Pitt game was an aberration, and to take advantage of a key Big Ten home game.
Why Northwestern might win: Iowa can’t get its quarterback play straight. The production has been there, averaging 202 yards per game and getting efficient play, for the most part, but it’s been hard to find a steady leader to run the show. Is it Ricky Stanzi or Jake Christensen? It’s Stanzi this week, but he’ll be looking over his shoulder after Christensen threw for 124 yards and ran for a score last week. In any event, the upheaval has been a problem for the Hawkeye offense.
Why Iowa might win: Northwestern can’t get its quarterback play straight. There’s no quarterback controversy like there is at Iowa, but C.J. Bacher hasn’t been close to the same player he was last year when he led the Big Ten if total offense. He has been inefficient, he hasn’t been consistent, and now he has sprained fingers on his throwing hand. He struggled last week after hurting his hand throwing four picks against Ohio, and he should end up giving away a few turnovers against the aggressive Hawkeye defense.
Who to watch: It’ll be hard to get First Team All-Big Ten running back honors in a league with Beanie Wells, Javon Ringer and P.J. Hill, but Iowa’s Shonn Greene and Northwestern’s Tyrell Sutton should come close.  Sutton has done a little of everything for the Wildcat offense, but he left last week’s game with a hamstring injury. While he’s not 100%, he’ll play and will be given a full workload. Greene has been magnificent so far. The Big Ten’s second leading rusher, behind Ringer, Greene has rushed for over a 100 yards with a touchdown in each of the first four games. He outdueled Pitt star LeSean McCoy last week, rushing for 147 yards to McCoy’s 78 yards.
What will happen: Iowa’s offense will struggle against the Northwestern defensive line that’ll be camped out in the backfield, but the defense will stop the Wildcat offense time and again in the second half. Northwestern won’t get its running game going, and it won’t be able to get enough from Bacher to pull off the road win.
CFN Prediction
: Iowa 23 … Northwestern 14 ... Line: Iowa -8
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 3
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Wisconsin (3-0) at Michigan (1-2), 3:30 EST, ABC
Why to watch: If Wisconsin is really as good as it’s capable of being, and if Michigan really is as down as it appeared in its first three games, then this should be the time when the Big Ten pecking order starts to become established. The Badgers, after getting two weeks off after the tougher-than-it’s-getting-credit-for win at Fresno State, are as healthy as they’ve been since early last year, and a win in the Big House would kick off the make-or-break six-week stretch on a solid note with home dates against Ohio State and Penn State to follow. While the date at Michigan might not seem as imposing as it might have appeared before the season, it would still be a big statement considering the Badgers haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1994. For Michigan, a win would all but erase the problems of the first three weeks. It’s the Big Ten season now, and the slate is wiped clean with a three-game homestand to try to turn things around (although the third game is against Toledo, who’s from the MAC). The offense hasn’t worked, the defense has been surprisingly soft and underwhelming when it’s had to come up with a key stop to bail out the offense, and the special teams have been mediocre. In other words, the first three weeks have been a bit of a mess. Has Michigan tightened up, or is this Wisconsin’s time?
Why Wisconsin might win: Michigan can’t score. The offense hasn’t found anything that works so far. Forget about running the spread like Rich Rodriguez ran at West Virginia, Michigan can’t get the ground game going at all. The passing game has been non-existent at best, a detriment at worst. Wisconsin’s defense gave up a few big plays to Fresno State, but there was only one touchdown allowed. Michigan doesn’t have the ability to crank out consistent home runs on this Badger D, which is finally getting healthy, and there’s no chance to crank out enough long drives to keep the Badger O off the field.
Why Michigan might win: The Michigan run defense has been solid. The defensive front has been terrific at getting into the backfield and allowed Utah to net just 36 rushing yards, Miami University to net 47, and Notre Dame 113. Wisconsin isn’t afraid to throw the ball, but it would rather not. Not only will the Badgers likely have a hard time establishing their running game, but QB Allan Evridge will likely be under consistent pressure. While Evridge is tough and can take a beating, as shown in the Marshall game, he needs time to operate.
Who to watch: Is Sam McGuffie really going to be the Michigan running game? The freshman is a spectacular athlete who showed against Notre Dame the ability to hit the home run as a receiver, while carrying the ball 25 times for 131 yards, but the Wolverines need others to get involved. McGuffie has carried the ball 50 times, and no other running back has carried it more than eight.   
What will happen: Wisconsin’s offense is hardly going to be a work of art, but it’ll be effective enough when it has to be. The Michigan running game will be held under 100 yards and the passing game will misfire when it needs to come up with a key third down play. The Badger will win, but few will be impressed.
CFN Prediction
: Wisconsin 23 … Michigan 13 ... Line: Wisconsin -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 4
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Purdue (2-1) at Notre Dame (2-1), 3:30 EST, NBC
Why to watch: Purdue was a missed kick against Oregon away from being 3-0, while Notre Dame is coming off a 23-7 loss to Michigan State that was a tougher battle than the final score might show. Each team has been shaky in its own way, with Notre Dame having problems offensively and Purdue struggling with its consistency, and it’s not going too far to suggest that this is a crossroads game for each team. Notre Dame’s schedule isn’t bad, but if the offense has problems like it has over the first few games, it’s going to take some breaks to beat the better teams. Purdue is one of the better teams the Irish has to face until November, and no matter how the Irish get the win, if they can pull off the win, it’ll show the team is finding ways to make it happen. Purdue, on the other hand, couldn’t put away Oregon and had a nightmare of a time finishing off Central Michigan. With Penn State and a trip to Ohio State over the next two weeks, the Boilermakers can’t afford a slip.
Why Purdue might win: Notre Dame’s offense stinks … again. Purdue’s Achilles heel has been the run defense, and there’s nothing to worry about this week. Meanwhile, the secondary gives up yards, but doesn’t get bombed on. The Irish offense isn’t going to go on many, if any, long, sustained drives. If there aren’t turnovers or big plays from the special teams, the offense struggles to put points on the board. If Purdue can come out hot, a big early number could put the game away.
Why Notre Dame might win: The Purdue offense has been hit-or-miss. Curtis Painter has done the best he can with a new receiving corps, and Kory Sheets is having a nice year running the ball, but the passing attack is having problems coming up with the big plays when needed. The Purdue lines are fine, but nothing special. They’re not as good as the Michigan or Michigan State lines.
Who to watch: Notre Dame isn’t coming up with much in the way of rushing production, but it’s also not working hard to establish the ground game. Against Michigan State, the Irish ran the ball just 22 times and threw it 41 times. Robert Hughes ran five times for nine yards, and James Aldridge ran four times for 13 yards. The only running play that worked was a trick to WR Golden Tate on a 24-yard gain. Hughes ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan and 54 yards against San Diego State. The sophomore needs to be used far more against a Purdue defense that’s been spotty against the run.
What will happen: Purdue’s offense won’t be effective, but it’ll do far more than the Notre Dame attack. Curtis Painter will get all the time he needs to operate, and he’ll be effective early on. The Irish won’t be able to keep up.
CFN Prediction
: Purdue 24 … Notre Dame 16 ... Line: Purdue -2.5
Must See Rating: (5 Debate No. 1 - 1 The 2008 Primetime Emmys) … 3
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- Big 10 Week Five Fearless Predictions