2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions - Week 3
Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin
Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin
Posted Sep 16, 2009

Can Michigan State bounce back after the tough late loss to Central Michigan? The Spartans get a chance to prove they can play in a showdown against Notre Dame, while Iowa plays Arizona and Minnesota hosts Cal in a good weekend. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 Big Ten Games

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 19 Games

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
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Game of the Week

Michigan State (1-1) at Notre Dame (1-1)
3:30 PM EST, Saturday, September 19, NBC

Why to watch: Each team was a few seconds away from being 2-0 and making this, arguably, college football's biggest game of the weekend. Notre Dame did everything it could to ruin a great performance against Michigan with penalties, mental mistakes, and coaching blunders that ended up allowing Tate Forcier and the Michigan offense to pull off the stunning rally. Michigan State needed a miracle to lose to Central Michigan, and it happened with a perfect onside kick going the Chippewas way and a penalty that nullified a missed field goal and allowed Andrew Aguila to hit the game winner. Neither team is getting much in the way of national respect, especially in the rankings, but the winner should see its season kickstarted again while the loser will have an uphill climb to overcome the 1-2 start.

Notre Dame needs this game more than Michigan State does. The Spartans go to Wisconsin next week and have Michigan coming into East Lansing later; those are much more important than this week's battle. Since the Irish don't have a conference schedule to rely on, they have to take advantage of all the games they have against decent teams. With Purdue and Washington up next, a win this week would likely mean a 4-1 start before the epic showdown against USC. The Spartans have won three of the last four in the series, but this is a far better Notre Dame team. Now it has to prove it.

Why Michigan State might win
: Pressure. Nevada has the talent up front to come up with a fearsome pass rush that should be among the nation's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. It couldn't get to Jimmy Clausen. Michigan has a strong line that hasn't shown up yet, and it didn't spend much time in the Notre Dame backfield. Michigan State will get after Clausen, and while it's not going to do anything crazy to disrupt the timing of the Irish offense, the front four should be able to dictate the tempo and the action better than the Wolf Pack or Wolverines could. Offensively, the passing game has been crisp. It has been explosive at times, and overall it's done enough to keep the chains moving. Notre Dame's secondary can be beaten as long as the Spartan coaches keep taking what the Jon Tenuta defense gives them. The Irish will attack, but MSU can block and can get the ball into the hands of the playmakers in a hurry.
Why Notre Dame might win: Can the Spartan corners handle the Notre Dame receivers? Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour put the pressure on the MSU secondary with 328 yards and three touchdowns, and while most of the production came late in comeback mode, the passing game worked. No one is playing better than Clausen, who has been unstoppable over the last three games now that he's being given time. Even if the Spartans get into the backfield, the Irish have the balance when needed thanks to Armando Allen, who ran for 139 yards and a score against Michigan averaging 6.6 yards per carry. In other words, this is a fully-functional offensive machine that MSU won't be able to slow down without help from a slew of Irish penalties and a few turnovers. MSU has decent offensive talent, but it doesn't have enough stars to keep up in a 60-minute shootout.
Who to watch: While Notre Dame is set at quarterback, Michigan State is still trying to figure out if Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol is the answer. The two continue to be listed as co-starters, but Cousins has been the far better and the far more consistent of the two completing 66% of his passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns, while Nichol has competed 46% of his throws for 186 yards and three scores. The one key number is zero. Without a great running game to rely on and needing to help the defense out as much as possible, the two quarterbacks have yet to throw an interception. They have to be nearly-flawless if MSU is going to have a shot.
What will happen: It's Michigan State vs. Notre Dame, so it's going to be a fun, tight battle with a wild fourth quarter. The Notre Dame passing game will slow down a little bit, but not enough for the Spartans to take advantage. The Irish defense will attack the MSU quarterbacks early on and try to rattle them more than they were able to do against Tate Forcier, and they should have a little more success.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 34 … Michigan State 30... Line: Notre Dame -11
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 4.5
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Temple (0-1) at Penn State (2-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: The Penn State tune-up parade continues after having no problems with Akron and Syracuse to start the season, beating the two by a combined score of 59-14. The Big Ten season kicks in next week with Iowa coming to Happy Valley, followed up by a trip to Illinois, and while the Nittany Lions have been fine so far, they could use more work on the offensive line to get the running game rolling. That's what Temple is for. The Owls suffered a devastating blow in a season-opening loss to Villanova from the FCS ranks, and while Penn State is hardly the type of game to use to prepare for future games, they need to sharpen up before dealing with Buffalo next week.
Why Temple might win: The Nittany Lion running game isn't working all that well. Syracuse has a nice run defense that did a good job of pushing around the Penn State O line, and Temple should be able to win a few battles up front. The defensive line is the strength of the team, and while there were major problems against Villanova all across the board, stopping the run wasn't a problem allowing just 64 yards while registering five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. The Nittany Lion backfield will be penetrated.
Why Penn State might win: Even with the tremendous pass rush and the great game against the Wildcats by the Temple defensive front, the secondary was destroyed. Villanova had no problems moving the ball through the air, and the Nittany Lions should be able to do whatever they want to. Darryl Clark has been hot leading an air attack that's averaging 310 yards per game, and there should be several big plays to force Temple out of what it wants to do offensively. The Owl secondary doesn't have the talent to keep up with the still-emerging, but talented Nittany Lion receiving corps.
Who to watch: What is up with the Penn State offensive line? While the overall offensive production hasn't been bad, the ground game only came up with 136 yards and a touchdown against Akron and 78 yards and a score against Syracuse. Against Temple, the Nittany Lions will want to try to rumble for at least 200 yards, even thought Clark and the passing game should do whatever it wants to. Getting Evan Royster going is a must after two pedestrian outings with 102 yards and two scores on the year. However, he caught two passes for 61 yards and a score against Syracuse. He's being saved a bit for the bigger games, but it would be a plus if he could roll for at least 100 yards and control the game.
What will happen: There are lopsided series and then there's this. Penn State has always destroyed the Owls, and it's been particularly bad over the last three years winning by a total of 123-3. Expect more of the same. The offense will try to work on the ground game, while the defense will take care of the rest in a breeze.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 38 … Temple 6 ... Line: Penn State -29.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 2
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Toledo (1-1) at Ohio State (1-1) in Cleveland, 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, ESPN

Why to watch: There's no time to be moping around for Ohio State after being unable to stop USC on a late drive in the 18-15 loss. The Buckeyes haven't exactly exploded on offense so far, struggling with Navy before being stifled by the Trojans, and now they need to get their track shoes on. Toledo might not be great, but they can move the ball and they can score. The hung around with Purdue for a while in a 52-31 loss, and then they came up with a shocking 54-38 blowout over Colorado. The passing game has been unstoppable, but the defense is giving up points and yards in bunches. Ohio State has to take advantage, but there can't be any looking ahead to the Big Ten opener against Illinois or a disappointing season could turn disastrous. The Rockets should have little problem with FIU and Ball State to follow, but they want to bag the big prize. They have the horses to do it.
Why Ohio State might win: It's not like Toledo has come close defensively. Colorado was in comeback mode and had to start bombing away, but Cody Hawkins and the offense made it closer than it should've been. Purdue got 234 rushing yards out of Ralph Bolden and 220 yards and three passing scores out of Joey Elliott, and last week Colorado got 356 yards and four scores out of Hawkins and the pedestrian Buff passing game. Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeye offense hasn't been consistent and hasn't been nearly explosive enough, and if that's ever going to change, this would be the week to do it. The soft Toledo secondary is prone to giving up big plays, while there hasn't been any help from the defensive front. If the Buckeyes block like they did against USC, Pryor should be fine.
Why Toledo might win: It's very possible Ohio State just doesn't have it. Pryor has all the makings of a future superstar, but he's still developing passing game and he's been wildly inefficient. Toledo has been throwing so well in the Tim Beckman offense that Ohio State could be sleepy early and be down 14-0. How has Ohio State done over the years following a soul-crushing regular season loss? There haven't been many, but the team was sleepwalking through a lifeless game against Troy last year and got pushed. The same thing happened against San Diego State in 2005 after losing to Vince Young and Texas. In 2004, the Buckeyes followed up a loss to Northwestern with two more losses. There's a chance that OSU will need a few quarters to wake up.
Who to watch: Not only is DaJuane Collins running well for Toledo, but the team's leading rusher from last year, Morgan Williams, is back after a two-game suspension. His return should take a little head off of Aaron Opelt, the nation's leader in total offense averaging 437 yards per game. The coaching change has done wonders for the senior who has thrown for 742 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for 132 yards and two scores, in two games. For Ohio State, the time is now for Pryor to be Terrelle Pryor. A bit too tentative and struggling with his accuracy, he has completed just 25-of-46 passes so far and has rushed for a mere 66. After taking off for 631 yards last season, he needs to get back to being more of a runner while still concentrating on being a better passer. If he's not far better, Ohio State will hit a hard ceiling on how high it can go this year.
What will happen: Toledo will struggle early, but it'll come up with a good run of points that will force Ohio State to try far longer than it will want to. Eventually, the Buckeyes will be the Buckeyes and they'll open it up late, but there will be some tense moments.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 40 … Toledo 26 ... Line: Ohio State -20.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
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Eastern Michigan (0-2) at Michigan (2-0), 12:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: Former Michigan defensive coordinator, Ron English, gets a shot at his former team as he tries to build (not rebuild) Eastern Michigan into a decent program. The Eagles have a little bit of pop on offense, although they haven't shown it yet, and they improved greatly from Week One to Week Two with a nice comeback performance in 27-24 loss at Northwestern. The MAC schedule kicks in next week against Temple, with winnable home games against Kent State and Ball State coming soon after, so the team needs to find some way to keep improving even though it's facing a red-hot Michigan team. The Wolverines are in a perfect spot for head coach Rich Rodriguez. They're 2-0, they're playing extremely well, coming off the possibly program-changing win over Notre Dame, and they can use the Nobody Respects Us line after being left out of the top 25. With a relative layup against Indiana coming up next before a showdown at Michigan State, RichRod should better his win total of 2008 before September is up.
Why Eastern Michigan might win: The run defense has had a few problems, but the secondary has been solid. The stats lie a bit considering the opener was against an Army team that did nothing but run, but the EMU back seven did a nice job of putting the clamps down against a Northwestern offense that came up with several big pass plays in its opening day win over Towson. At some point the offense will start to produce; QB Andy Schmitt is too dangerous a veteran to not be producing more. Notre Dame bombed away on the Wolverine corners, and Schmitt might be able to do the same.
Why Michigan might win 300 yards and four touchdowns. That's what the Army offense came up with against the Eastern Michigan run defense, and while Rich Ellerson's Knights are option oriented, many of the same things that worked against the Eagles should work for the Wolverines. Michigan ended up beating Notre Dame through the air with Tate Forcier making things happen on late drives with a good, accurate arm. But this game should be about pounding the ball, and several Michigan backs will see carries as the spread has the potential to hit the 300-yard rushing mark.
Who to watch: English is making a point to upgrade the defense and to try to win with a sound ground game. He's trying to stay away from the high-flying offense that put up some big numbers late last year, but struggled to take control of games. Junior Dwayne Priest is having a 2008 after being underutilized under the old regime, rushing for 210 yards in two games. He ran for 474 yards and five scores all of last year. He has to be effective to help control the clock and keep Forcier off the field, and if he's getting stuffed, Michigan is likely going to be up big.
What will happen: Michigan is due for a little bit of a letdown, and there will be plenty of mistakes to come from a young team that's still trying to figure out what it's doing. Even so, the Wolverines will keep the momentum going and will win in a walk.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 34 … Eastern Michigan 10 ... Line: Michigan -22.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 2
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Wofford (1-1) at Wisconsin (2-0), 11:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, Big 10 Network

Why to watch: It might seem like Wisconsin is struggling, beating Northern Illinois by eight and needing double overtime to survive a scare from Fresno State, but the team is playing far better than it did last year. However, it needs to do some tightening up on the O line and it needs to be stronger for a full sixty minutes. Wofford has the type of quirky rushing attack that has given the Badgers mega-problems over the years. It's not the Cal Poly offense that almost pulled off the upset in Madison last year, but it's almost as effective running the ball. This might be a little bit of a fight for the Badgers until they figure out how to slow down the option, but with Michigan State up next week, they'd like to try to get healthy and rest up as many starters as possible.
Why Wofford might win: The Terriers have just enough X factors to throw a curve ball. The offense is a Wingbone attack that works on speed and deception, and Wisconsin is going to have to be patient and accept that there will be some big gains and a few long drives. Defensively, the 3-4 scheme allows the quick linebackers to fly around and make things happen on the outside. If the banged up Badger O line isn't clicking, the offense could be stagnant at times. Not helping the cause is a bout of flu that's running rampant throughout the Wisconsin team.
Why Wisconsin might win: Power, power, power. If the beef up front was ever going to come through, this would be the game. Even though the offensive line is patched up, it has size and can run block in a power formation. The Terriers will be feisty, but they're very small and could wear down in a hurry. There's no Wofford passing game to speak of, so as long as the Badger corners stay away and don't get burned the five times that Mitch Allen chooses to throw, the defense should be able to pin its ears back and get to the backfield.
Who to watch: Call it a message received. Wisconsin's sophomore running back John Clay was a second-teamer to start the season, working behind Zach Brown, but when needed, the big man was the main man. He ran for 143 yards with a devastating 72-yard scoring dash in the win over Fresno State, and he wore down the Bulldogs late. Now he's fresh, motivated, and apparently ready to be the focal point of the attack. For Wofford, leading rusher Eric Breitenstein is out with a knee injury, so instead of working the middle more, the Terriers will rely on dangerous speedster Mike Rocker on the outside. He makes big things happen when he gets a step.
What will happen: South Florida was able to blow away Wofford 40-7 thanks to a balanced offensive attack. The Terriers will have their moments with the option, but not enough of them to overcome a few big plays from the Badger special teams and a big day from Clay.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 48 … Wofford 14 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 1
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