Big Ten Fearless Predictions, Oct. 25
Posted Oct 22, 2008

While the Big 12 and SEC showdowns might take center stage this weekend, the heavyweight battle between Beanie Wells' Ohio State and Maurice Evans' Penn State will have just as big an impact on the national title. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 9 Big Ten Games

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 
- Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18

How are the picks so far? SU: 48-13... ATS: 30-22

- Big 10 Fearless Predictions, Oct. 25, Part 2 (Mich. vs. Mich. St)

Big Ten Game of the Week

Penn State (8-0) at Ohio State (7-1), 8:00 EST ABC
Why to watch: It’s statement time for the two superpowers of the 2008 Big Ten season. Michigan hasn’t shown up, Wisconsin has melted down, and Michigan State showed its colors last week in the 45-7 home loss to the Buckeyes. With all due respect to Minnesota and Northwestern, the world revolves around Penn State and Ohio State, and for the BCS and the national title chase, this will be a key piece of the puzzle.

Outside of a major meltdown, these two will likely end up in the BCS in some way, shape or form with the winner almost certainly to be Rose Bowl bound, at worst, while Penn State is shooting for more. A lot more. After a sluggish start last week, the Nittany Lions blew past Michigan for a 46-17 win and yet another dominant, impressive victory. Next week’s trip at Iowa will be dangerous, but the final two home games are against Indiana and Michigan State. A win this week would show that the national title really is within reach, while a loss would likely mean a BCS game other than the Rose. The offense is cranking out 482 yards a game, the defense is the best in the Big Ten, and the confidence and execution have been there from day one. However, getting past Ohio State in Columbus is a whole other ball game for a team that has faced the 100th ranked schedule so far. 

For Ohio State, this is the game the team has been working towards for the last six weeks ever since the disaster against USC. With Terrelle Pryor firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback and the leader of the offense, and with Beanie Wells rumbling, even if he’s at a self-described 80%, this is a far different offense than the one that sputtered and coughed over the first few games of the season. Beating Penn State would bring the respect the program has been lacking ever since it got blasted by LSU in the 2008 BCS Championship Game, and while a third straight trip to the title game might seem out of the question, the discussion could start if the Buckeyes win in a blowout. OSU has won five of the last six in the series.
Why Penn State might win: Can Pryor actually throw under pressure? He was terrific against Michigan State, completing 7-of-11 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown, but that game was all about Beanie and the running game. He’s about to face a pass rush like he hasn’t seen, and that includes the USC game. The Trojans didn’t attack Pryor the way they pinned their ears back to get to Todd Boeckman. Penn State isn’t going to sit back and let Pryor run the option and make things happen on the outside. The defensive front should be able to blow past a Buckeye offense line that’s having a nightmare of a time in pass protection, while the back seven will take its chances against Wells. Penn State is allowing a mere 104 rushing yards per game despite facing P.J. Hill, the Illinois ground game, and Oregon State freshman sensation Jacquizz Rodgers.
Why Ohio State might win: Can Penn State actually play when it’s getting slugged in the mouth? Beating Michigan is one thing, it was just a question of time before the Wolverines were going to implode and were going to start playing like they have all season long. Ohio State is a confident, athletic team with the secondary to keep the great Nittany Lion receiving corps in check. QB Daryll Clark isn’t likely to be under too much pressure, Ohio State doesn’t have much of a pass rush, but the big runs both from him and backs Evan Royster and Stephon Green will be kept to a minimum by James Laurinaitis and a Buckeye linebacking corps that stuffed Javon Ringer last week and is allowing just 97 rushing yards per game.
Who to watch: Since coming back from his foot injury, Wells has ripped off games of 106 yards, 168, 94, and 140 yards with last week’s effort against Michigan State the type of workhorse game that showed off all the power and speed he brings. Of course, Penn State knows this and will send everyone and the waterboy at No. 28 to stop him. That means Pryor will have to hit on some big pass plays early, like he did against Michigan State. That means Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie, the forgotten stars in the offense since Pryor took over, must take advantage of the few chances they’ll get. Hartline caught a pass last week against Michigan State, but it was a big one for 56 yards, while Robiskie made just two grabs with a short touchdown catch.
What will happen: Ohio State usually doesn’t do well when it has to deal with the higher ranked teams of similar or better talent. This will be the exception. This is a fantastic Penn State team with the skill and the mettle to play for the national title, and yes, this is a Big Ten team good enough to win it against an SEC team, any Big 12 team, or USC, but for the first time all year, Clark will have to come through in the clutch, and he won’t be able to do it.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 23 … Penn State 20 … Line:  Penn State -1.5
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 5
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Saturday, October 25

Northwestern (6-1) at Indiana (2-5), 12:00 EST Big Ten
Why to watch: Normally, these two are battling for the right to get out of the out of the bottom level of the Big Ten standings, but this year, Northwestern is deep in the hunt for a New Year’s Day game, and with a big upset or two, it could be in the hunt for the Big Ten title. The loss came to Michigan State, and with the toughest remaining games, Ohio State and Illinois, at Evanston, this could turn into an interesting story. But that’s getting way, way ahead of the game. For now, the Wildcats can bask in bowl eligibility, but 6-6 last year didn’t bring an invite. A win over Indiana would mean a seventh win and a certain 13th game. On the flip side, Indiana, one of last year’s feel-good Big Ten stories, has struggled mightily losing its last two games against Iowa and Illinois by a total score of 100 to 21. The Hoosiers haven’t beaten an FBS team, with the two wins coming over Western Kentucky and Murray State, but they can quickly start to turn things around with a win this week to kick off a three game homestand.
Why Northwestern might win: The Indiana offense isn’t scoring. It’s moving well, averaging a solid 387 yards per game, but the drives aren’t translating into points. Most of the yards are coming after the outcome has been decided with the Hoosiers scoring a mere 29 points in their last three games while averaging just 15.6 points per game against FBS teams. Northwestern might not have an explosive attack, but it’s balanced and effective. The offensive line should control the game against a disappointing IU defensive front.
Why Indiana might win: The IU running game isn’t consistent, but it’s able to hit the home run from anywhere on the field with the right breaks. Northwestern isn’t above giving up the big play, and IU RB Marcus Thigpen, one of the Big Ten’s fastest players, is fantastic when he gets into the open field. He hasn’t done it much so far, but if the Hoosiers are going to pull this off, he needs to get going. The offense also needs ...
Who to watch: … Kellen Lewis to be back and healthy. The star quarterback missed last week’s game against Illinois with a sprained ankle, and backup Ben Chappell struggled in his place. Chappell completed 12-of-29 passes for 172 yards and didn’t bring any running ability. Lewis hasn’t been able to break free over the last few weeks when he was playing failing to run more than nine times and not gaining more than 29 yards since tearing off 148 yards against Murray State. He practiced this week, and while he’ll be limited if he plays, he needs to be close to the Kellen Lewis of last year to keep the Wildcats off balance.
What will happen: Northwestern is playing too well to blow its great season against an IU team that’s struggling on both lines. The Wildcat defensive line should be camped out in the IU backfield.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 38 … Indiana 24 … Line: Northwestern -9
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 2.5
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Illinois (4-3) at Wisconsin (3-4), 12:00 EST ESPN2
Why to watch: Before the season started, this game looked like it might be among the most pivotal in the Big Ten race and it had the potential to have a big impact on the BCS. At least that was the theory. The Illini had been doing fine, with only a tough loss to a juggernaut Penn State team to blemish the record, and then came the 27-20 gaffe to Minnesota with fumbles and a few inches on a dive by Juice Williams costing them the win. A second straight trip to the Rose Bowl might be gone, but a New Year’s Day game is still a possibility by winning out. Wisconsin might be down, but a win in Madison would still be a major positive for the Illini. The Badgers lost in almost every way possible over the last four weeks with the defense going bye-bye in blowouts against Penn State and Iowa after heart-ripping losses to Michigan and Ohio State. A team with an honest dream of doing what Penn State is doing and being on the fringe of the national title hunt, now it needs a win to stay alive for a bowl game with a road game at Michigan State up next week and a resurgent Minnesota still to play. On the plus side, two of the final four games are against Indiana and Cal Poly.
Why Illinois might win: Wisconsin’s defense hasn’t been the same since Ohio State went on its season-changing final drive in the 20-17 Buckeye win. The secondary couldn’t stop Penn State’s short-to-midrange passing game, while the run defense couldn’t stop Iowa’s Shonn Greene. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Illinois is able to move the ball both in the air and on the ground equally well. Juice Williams is playing as well as any quarterback in the Big Ten leading an attack that’s averaging 205 rushing yards and 280 yards passing.
Why Wisconsin might win: Illinois hasn’t been awful against the run, but it hasn’t been a brick wall, either. Penn State’s offensive line was able to pound away for 241 yards, while Missouri got creative and dashed its way to a big day in the opener. The Illini hasn’t faced anyone else who can come close to playing a smash-mouth style, and while the Badgers weren’t able to establish much of anything on the ground against Iowa, they need to try running from the moment they come out of the tunnel. However, the offensive line is banged up, and the passing game needs …
Who to watch: … QB Dustin Sherer to become a playmaker from the opening drive. With Allan Evridge struggling, and failing to get the offense moving against Penn State, Sherer was given the start against Iowa, and he stunk completing half his passes for 161 yards and two interceptions. New backup Scott Tolzien wasn’t much better after getting the attack moving. Illinois has a terrific pass rush, and the Badgers might be without guard Kraig Urbik and Gabe Carimi thanks to knee injuries. Sherer has to get the ball out of his hands quickly, efficiently, and without any major mistakes.
What will happen: Wisconsin will come out pumped up with a few good early drives, but the defense isn’t playing anywhere nearly well enough to keep the Illinois offense under wraps for a full sixty minutes. Williams will hook up for at least two very long, very impressive pass plays and Wisconsin will go in the tank … again.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 31 … Wisconsin 23 … Line: Illinois -1
Must See Rating: (5 SNL with Palin – 1 Jose Canseco: Last Shot) … 3
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- Big 10 Fearless Predictions, Oct. 25, Part 2 (Mich. vs. Mich. St)