2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions - Week 2

Posted Sep 9, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 2 Big Ten Games

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 2 ... Sept. 13 Games

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
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Eastern Michigan (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, Big 10 Network

Why to watch: Northwestern's squishy-soft non-conference schedule continues after blasting Towson in a 47-14 win that wasn't even that close, and it needs to be fully tuned up for the one challenge before Big Ten play, a trip to Syracuse next week. Eastern Michigan was a major disappointment in Week One losing at home to Army 27-14, but Andy Schmitt and the offense have the potential to put up big numbers if the passing game gets going. The Eagles get Michigan next week, but they'll have their hands full with a Wildcat team that isn't getting any respect at the moment, but has the potential to come up with a big season thanks to an athletic, veteran defense and an offense that's just good enough to get by.
Why Eastern Michigan might win: The Eagles lead the nation in pass defense. Fine, so it's only the second week, and fine, Army only threw the ball five times, but at least it looks good on paper. Head coach Ron English knows the Big Ten, he's the former Michigan defensive coordinator, and he knows Northwestern a little bit. The Eagle offense didn't get into any sort of a rhythm last week, but the pieces are there to start throwing and keep throwing to put the pressure on a mediocre Wildcat secondary.
Why Northwestern might win: The Wildcats are trying to become more balanced on offense with QB Mike Kafka trying to prove he can become a decent passer, but if the attack wants to go with its strength, running Kafka, it should be able to roll. Army's option offense was able to shred the EMU linebacking corps, and if Kafka and the Northwestern backfield can start out controlling the game, then things will open up against a weak Eagle secondary that will give up the big play.
Who to watch: Northwestern should have a decent season mainly because of its defense and the expected steady play of Kafka, but there's a ceiling on the success unless some playmakers emerge on offense. Stephen Simmons is a limited back, but he's the team's best option at the moment needing 17 carries to gain 77 yards on the awful Towson defense. In the passing game, veteran Andrew Brewer was the gamebreaker with a 72-yard touchdown catch, and he'll have to keep stretching the field to make defenses respect anything Simmons and the ground game will try to do.
What will happen: The Eastern Michigan offense will wake up just enough to provide a push for three quarters, but Northwestern's defense will come up with two key turnovers late to seal the win.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 34 … Eastern Michigan 20 ... Line: Northwestern -18
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2
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Syracuse (0-1) at Penn State (1-0),12:00 EST, Big Ten Network, Saturday, September 12

Why to watch: Penn State and Syracuse, a pair of former Eastern rivals headed in opposite directions, renew acquaintances in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions were as sharp as they needed to be in the opener versus Akron, jumping out to a 31-0 halftime lead before coasting and emptying the bench in the final 30 minutes. No. 9 Penn State has two more weekends to address concerns, mainly on the offensive line and in the secondary, before the conference schedule kicks off in earnest. The Orange darn near bagged a Big Ten upset last weekend before bowing to Minnesota, 23-20, in overtime. Still, with Greg Paulus at quarterback and Doug Marrone on the sidelines for the first time, the program showed more fight and determination than in recent years. If Syracuse wants to energize a sleepy base, hanging with Penn State on the road would be a nice place to start.
Why Syracuse might win: Unlike a year ago, when the Orange got throttled 55-13, this edition is not going to crumble at the sight of Beaver Stadium. Remember, Paulus played in a ton of big games as the Duke point guard, and many holdovers return from the team that went on the road to shock Notre Dame last November. The rebuilt Penn State offensive line will have more problems than a week ago, trying to contain NT Arthur Jones and LB Ryan Gillum.
Why Penn State might win: The Lion offense will roll at will in the face of a really bad Syracuse defense. Darryl Clark was sharp a week ago, throwing for 353 yards and three scores, and has started to build some chemistry with his new receivers. Derek Moye, Graham Zug, and Chaz Powell all made plays in the passing game, which bodes well for the entire offense. Toss in the running of Evan Royster and Stephon Green, and the Orange will be defenseless. On defense, Jared Odrick and the rest of the Penn State front seven will be no match for an average Syracuse front wall.
Who to watch: So far, so good on the return of Penn State LB Sean Lee from last year's devastating knee injury. The senior had seven tackles and a couple of tackles for loss, struggling to dial down his excitement for being back in action. He got unexpected help on Saturday from sophomore Nate Stupar, who stepped in for an injured Navorro Bowman and collected a team-high 12 tackles.
What will happen: Penn State took it easy on Akron last weekend. Don't expect similar generosity when Syracuse makes its way to State College. The Lions will begin to slowly build to a boil as the competition ratchets up, smoking the Orange for three quarters before calling on the reserves. Jeremy Boone punted twice last week. Clark and his mates on offense will make sure he doesn't exceed that number this Saturday. .
CFN Prediction: Penn State 44 … Syracuse 10 ... Line: Penn State -29
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2
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Western Michigan (0-1) at Indiana (1-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: Indiana has to prove it's really not that bad. Last year, the Hoosiers not only lost to Ball State at home, but they also lost to Central Michigan from the MAC, and last week they had problems with Eastern Kentucky winning in a 19-13 struggle. Western Michigan's season started off with a thud, getting ripped through by a resurgent Michigan in a 31-7 loss, but the schedule eases up in a big way with Miami University next week followed up by a layup against Hofstra. While the WMU season will be made or broken by what happens in the MAC, beating Indiana could be the type of win that ends up securing an at-large bowl bid. It might just be IU, but beating a BCS conference team is always big for the MAC. On the other side, Indiana continues its Tour of the MAC with a game at Akron next week before facing Michigan.
Why Western Michigan might win: The IU secondary is awful. EKU was able to roll for 278 yards through the air last week even with a ton of pressure in the backfield from the IU defensive front. Kept under wraps last week, Tim Hiller and the WMU passing game are too good to be kept under wraps two games in a row and should be strong enough to roll for 300 yards without much of a problem. On the other side of the ball, IU's offense wasn't consistent last week and might not have the firepower to keep up if this is any sort of a shootout.
Why Indiana might win: The Bronco secondary got shredded last week. Michigan is supposed to be able to run the ball well, but Tate Forcier was efficient and effective through the air. Indiana might have sputtered offensively in the opener, but QB Ben Chappell threw well cranking out 328 yards. Hitting the 300-yard mark might not be a problem if the Hoosier offensive line can give Chappell enough time to work. That might not be a problem considering WMU didn't generate any sort of a pass rush last week.
Who to watch: Running game, schmunning game. Indiana would like to have a ground attack to count on, but it hasn't had a consistent one in years. Demetrius McCray tried to provide some punch last week gaining 49 yards, but he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. No, it'll be the passing game that carries the Hoosiers, and a few key playmakers emerged in the receiving corps last week. Tandon Doss was the main target with eight catches for 125 yards, while Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner combined for 11 grabs. Chappell has to keep spreading the ball around, and his receivers have to keep making things happen when they get it.
What will happen: Shootout. Hiller and Chappell will each bomb away for over 300 yards, but the Western Michigan offense will be a little more efficient and effective, down the stretch. It should be a fun, entertaining game with plenty of fireworks.
CFN Prediction: Western Michigan 34 … Indiana 31 ... Line: Indiana -1
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2
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Central Michigan (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, ESPN2

Why to watch: Will the real Central Michigan show up? Expected to not only be the star of the MAC, CMU was supposed to be dangerous enough to provide major problems for teams like Michigan State and Arizona. That didn't go so well last week as the Chippewas were stuffed by the Wildcats gaining a mere 182 yards in an ugly 19-6 loss. Things don't get much easier against a Michigan State team that had a nice tune-up last week ripping through Montana State in an easy 44-3 win. The Spartans can't help but look ahead to the next few weeks with road games at Notre Dame and Wisconsin, followed up by the rivalry date with Michigan, but they have to avoid getting tagged by a CMU team that should be far, far better than it showed last week.
Why Central Michigan might win: Dan LeFevour. The CMU receiving corps is loaded with enough weapons to spread out the Spartans and keep the chains moving, but LeFevour has to play like the NFL-caliber star who has led the offense at such a high level over the last three years. Not only did he only throw for 108 yards last week against the Wildcats, he also ran for a mere 18 yards and a score. He's too experienced and too talented to not be the best offensive player on the field, and if he can find his groove again, he could keep MSU on its heels for a full sixty minutes.
Why Michigan State might win: MSU should be able to do whatever it wants to offensively. CMU, as good as it has been over the last few years, hasn't done much of anything on defense, and this year doesn't appear to be any different. Arizona isn't expected to light up the scoreboard this year, but it was able to move the ball at will last week. MSU will try to bomb away to put an end to the fun right away, but it should be able to run, too. At least that's the hope with a decent ground game needed for the big games coming up over the next several weeks. That's why it'll be vital for …
Who to watch: … the Spartans to get a little more pop from all the backs. QBs Keith Nichol and Kirk Cousins combined to throw for 318 yards and five touchdowns against Montana State, but the backs, other than Caulton Ray, struggled to make things happen. Larry Caper and Edwin Baker were fine, but they didn't get too much room to move, while Andre Anderson and A.J. Jimmerson didn't do a thing. Ray was the most effective option, running for 71 yards on 12 carries, but it's going to continue to be running-back-by-committee. Now the ground game has to be even more effective.
What will happen: It'll be a second-straight nightmare for Central Michigan. Greg Jones and the MSU defensive front will keep LeFevour from running, while the secondary is good enough to keep the dynamic Chippewa playmakers under wraps. MSU will come up with a balanced effort and will get yet another great game from the quarterbacks.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 37 … Central Michigan 13 ... Line: Michigan State -14.5
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2
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Fresno State (1-0) at Wisconsin (1-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 12, ESPN

Why to watch: When these two lined up early last year, it was expected to be one of the special under-the-radar games of first part of the season. Fresno State was supposed to be loaded and ready to live up to all the Pat Hill bluster, while Wisconsin had been just on the outside of the BCS and was looking for a big road win to kick off a run to a possible Big Ten title. While the Badgers won a very hard-fought, very entertaining 13-10 game, it was the beginning of the end as the collapse against Michigan came the following week and the wheels fell off from there. Fresno State was equally disappointing in a 7-5 season, but now the two teams appear to have found their mojo. Wisconsin beat Northern Illinois 28-20, and had to hang on late after taking the foot off the gas, but was fantastic for 50 minutes, playing better than it had at any time in the 2008 season. Fresno State played UC Davis, which was supposed to be an easy win, and it was nearly perfect on both sides of the ball showing off the speed and depth that could make this the season that Bulldog fans have been waiting for. Like last year, this will be a better test for Wisconsin than it might seem on a national scale, while Fresno State always likes to make big things happen in BCS team's houses.
Why Fresno State might win: Wisconsin only gave up 100 rushing yards last week, but struggled late once the super-quick Meco Brown took over. Brown ran 11 times for 64 yards and sparked the comeback attempt, and Chad Spann closed out the drives with two short scores. The Fresno State running game is better. Far, far better, and it should be able to control the game for stretches against a Badger defense that vows to be better than it was last year, but still has to show it can play a full sixty minutes. Ryan Mathews could have a tremendous game and could have a few big runs that could change the game.
Why Wisconsin might win: Is the Fresno State run defense any better? It was abysmal throughout last season getting destroyed for 210 yards per game, and that includes games against New Mexico State (-9 yards) and San Jose State (-5 yards). The Bulldogs only gave up 43 yards to UC Davis, but Wisconsin isn't UC Davis. The Badger ground game was held to just 154 yards in last year's win over the Bulldogs, but it should be able to pound away without much of a problem against a feisty, but mediocre Fresno State defensive front, and unlike past years …
Who to watch: … the Badgers have a passing game. It's impossible to understate just how terrific Scott Tolzien was against NIU compared to what the team had to deal with in 2008. The new UW starting quarterback threw two interceptions, but he completed 15-of-20 passes for 257 yards and a score while showing decisive zip on his passes and the willingness to step into his throws in the face of a rush. Also getting work was freshman Curt Phillips, who's considered the star of the future, completing 3-of-5 passes for 24 yards while adding a rushing element with 34 yards on four carries. Last year would've been far different if the Badgers had either one of them under center.
What will happen: Fresno State will bring a big bag of knuckles and a bad attitude, but Wisconsin appears to be back to being Wisconsin again. Even so, this should be a tight battle with the Badgers hanging on late with a soul-crushing drive to eat up the clock.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 23 … Fresno State 20... Line: Wisconsin -8
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 3.5
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