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2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, Week 8
Iowa TE Tony Moeaki & MSU LB Greg Jones
Iowa TE Tony Moeaki & MSU LB Greg Jones
Posted Oct 22, 2009

Is this the Big Ten Championship Game? Yeah, it really could be with the way the schedules work out. Iowa is the hot team of the moment, but if Michigan State wins out, it could be going to Pasadena. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 8 Big Ten Games

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 8 ... Oct. 24 Games

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

Iowa (7-0) at Michigan State (4-3), 7:00 EST, Saturday, October 24, Big 10 Network

Why to watch: This isn’t a misprint: this might be the Big Ten championship game. With the way the schedules work out, and with Ohio State starting to sputter and cough offensively, the winner of this game would likely be in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes might not be all that pleasing to the eye, and no one wants to believe they’re for real, but all of a sudden, the table is being set for a possible national title discussion after an impressive second half to get by Wisconsin last week. If Iowa really does pull this off and goes 12-0, it’ll have beaten Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State, arguably the four best non-Iowa teams in the Big Ten, all on the road. Throw in a nice non-conference win over a suddenly-dangerous Arizona, and the résumé would be there to get to Pasadena, and not for the Rose Bowl. However, getting by Michigan State is next on the ladder, and the Spartans have gotten hot at the right time. Yes, beating Illinois and Northwestern 24-14 isn’t anything to do cartwheels over, and yes, there are plenty of holes on this MSU team, but if it wins, and it ends Iowa’s dream run, then all of a sudden it’ll be deep in the hunt for the Rose Bowl. There’s no Ohio State on the schedule, Wisconsin, who beat the Spartans 38-30, has already lost twice, and the two remaining road games are at Minnesota and Purdue with Penn State coming to East Lansing. The USC-Oregon winner isn’t going to quake at the thought of playing either one of these teams, but they can start their advanced scouting on the winner.
Why Iowa might win: How have the Hawkeyes pulled off the hot start? 22 takeaways. Michigan State makes lots of mistakes, Iowa feasts off of every turnover … thank you very much, good night. Enjoy the veal. Michigan State can’t win this game if it loses the turnover battle, and it has managed to give the ball away 12 times in the last five games. The offense has the potential to be more explosive and potent than Iowa’s, and the defense has a stronger pass rush, but none of it matters if Iowa gets a short field to work with on a few drives. The Iowa secondary has been a rock, while the run defense has come through tough when it has absolutely needed to. Michigan State’s line has been great, but the running game isn’t going to carry the team if the passing attack isn’t working.
Why Michigan State might win: The pass rush. It has been a strange formula so far for the Spartan D with the secondary giving up too many yards in chunks, even though the defensive front has been getting to the quarterback early and often, but the run defense hasn’t been giving up a thing. It got ripped up by Wisconsin’s John Clay, but the Hawkeyes don’t have one of those and will struggle and sputter to get the ground game moving on a consistent basis. That puts the spotlight squarely on Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi, who has played stunningly well so far but has thrown way too many picks. The Iowa defense has bailed him out when the mistakes have come, but if MSU can be stingy in ball security, and if it can come up with two interceptions, this will be tight until the end.
Who to watch: If Michigan State’s Greg Jones isn’t the best tight end in America, he’s doing a good impersonation. The Spartan junior made a lot of tackles early on this year, including 15 against Central Michigan, but he wasn’t playing all that well. Too many plays were made down the field and he wasn’t doing enough to be a difference maker. That has all changed around as he’s getting into the backfield more, with two sacks against Northwestern last week, and he has become even more physical against the run. He might not have his standard double-digit tackling game this week, but he needs to come up with a few third down stops and he has to be strong in pass coverage when Iowa TE Tony Moeaki comes across the middle.
What will happen: Iowa will continue to mystify. All game long it will seem like Michigan State is one play away from turning the game around, and then Iowa will come up with that play. It’s not going to be a thing of beauty, but the Hawkeye train will keep rolling on with an efficient day from Stanzi and a great performance from the defensive front.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 17 … Michigan State 13 ... Line: Iowa -2
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 4
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Indiana (4-3) at Northwestern (4-3), 12:00 EST, Saturday, October 24, Big 10 Network

Why to watch: It’s bowl game elimination time. With the way the schedules shake out and with the Big Ten likely to have more eligible teams than bowl slots to fill, the loser of this game will probably be the odd team out. For Northwestern, this is as much of a revenge game as they get with the Hoosiers pulling off a stunning 21-19 win last year in Bloomington to put a major damper on a hot start. This year’s Wildcat team is struggling a little bit to find its consistency, and the offense can’t seem to get into the end zone on a regular basis, but it’s getting timely defense, a whale of a year from QB Mike Kafka, and it has three of its final five games at home. However, Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin are still on the board, so realistically, the Wildcats have to win this week and beat Illinois to be bowl eligible. IU, on the other hand, has come up with a nice bounceback season and was able to beat Illinois last week without much of a problem to stop a three-game slide. With likely losses ahead against Iowa and Penn State on the road and Wisconsin in Bloomington, this is a must-win for any dreams of a 13th game.
Why Indiana might win: Northwestern’s offense continues to sputter, especially in the ground game, and the offensive line is going to have a bear of a time with the IU defensive front. This is a bad matchup for the Wildcats; Jammie Kirlew and the IU pass rush should be able to get into the backfield early and often, while the NU rushing attack that has yet to gain more than 87 yards against a BCS conference team isn’t likely to break out. The cut-off point so far this year has been 80 yards. Northwestern is 4-0 when it runs for more, and 0-3 when it runs for fewer. Fortunately for the Wildcats …
Why Northwestern might win: … Indiana allows close to 170 rushing yards per game and has only stuffed one running game, Western Michigan’s. The Hoosier defense has been hit or miss, and while it has been terrific at making plays in the backfield and getting to the quarterback, it hasn’t come up with enough big turnovers throughout the year. The IU offense feeds off mistakes, helped last week by three key Illinois fumbles, while Northwestern has been great at making up for turnovers by forcing them. The offense has turned it over 14 times, but the Wildcats are still 30th in the nation, and second in the Big Ten, in turnover margin thanks to 18 takeaways including five forced fumbles against Purdue. If Northwestern is +2, it will likely win.
Who to watch: Northwestern senior WR Zeke Markhausen is putting on a show. A nice career practice player, he came into the season known for being a nice route runner, but extremely limited. Now he’s one of the Big Ten’s leading receivers thanks to a ten-catch day against Purdue and a 16-catch, 111-yard, one score performance against Michigan State last week. He’s not going to break off many big plays and he’s not a deep threat, but he’s a chain-mover who has become Kafka’s go-to guy.
What will happen: Indiana has the better makeup and the better personnel to win this game. The defensive line should dominate at times, QB Ben Chappell is heating up and should be able to pick apart the Northwestern secondary, and the offense has more weapons at running back … but it won’t matter. Kafka will throw for 300 yards to overcome a non-existent day from the running game, and five Stefan Demos field goals will prove to be the difference.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 22 … Indiana 17 ... Line: Northwestern -4.5
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 2
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Minnesota (4-3) at Ohio State (5-2), 12:00 EST, Saturday, October 24, ESPN

Why to watch: It’s Purdue. Minnesota was able to beat Purdue without a problem. Northwestern was able to beat Purdue. Even Northern Illinois was able to beat the Boilermakers. But Ohio State doesn’t lose to Purdue, and when Ohio State loses to Purdue, people get grouchy. But for all the bluster and all the concerns over the gaffe, last week’s 26-18 loss in West Lafayette doesn’t really matter. Ohio State wasn’t going to be in the national title hunt and it can still go to the Rose Bowl by winning out (Iowa in on the schedule on November 14th) and getting a Michigan State loss along the way. But the bigger concern is how the offense isn’t coming around, and how QB Terrelle Pryor is struggling. This was supposed to be a development year, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of improving happening. For Minnesota, this caps off a rough two-game road stretch after losing last week to Penn State 20-0. With games against Illinois and South Dakota State ahead there’s still time to get bowl eligible, but it would be nice to come up with a shocker of a road win to prove that the program is headed in the right direction.
Why Minnesota might win: Terelle Pryor. With RB Dan Herron hurting with an ankle injury, Pryor has been forced to carry more of the offensive workload and he has struggled. He wasn’t miserable against Purdue, but he threw two bad interceptions and is getting the blame for the loss. Minnesota has the linebackers to keep Pryor from scrambling too much on the outside and hasn’t been bad against mobile quarterbacks like Syracuse’s Greg Paulus and Air Force’s Tim Jefferson. However, as bad as the Ohio State offense has been …
Why Ohio State might win: … Minnesota’s has been worse. Last in the Big Ten and 114th in the nation averaging just 294 yards per game, the Gophers are having a hard time making the attack go with a mere 138 yards of total offense last week against the Nittany Lions. Penn State’s defense is good, but Ohio State’s is better and is looking to make a statement after being embarrassed by the Boilermakers. The gameplan should be easy. Don’t turn the ball over on offense, try to get Pryor to relax, and shut down ….
Who to watch: … Minnesota WR Eric Decker. Before getting hurt last season, the Gopher senior had his worst day against Ohio State, catching five passes for 52 yards, and he has been all but erased by opposing defenses over the last two weeks. Unstoppable at times over the first five weeks of the season, looking like a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, he was out of the mix against Purdue as the offense tried to get the running game going, and he caught just three passes for 50 yards. Last week, Penn State held him to one 42-yard catch. Ohio State’s secondary will focus all of its efforts on spotting No. 7 and will assume the rest of the Gophers can’t pick up the slack.
What will happen: After a week of having to answer questions about Pryor and if he’s being used right, and with Jim Tressel and his coaching methods being questioned after just one loss, the team is going to come out … steady? Most teams would try to make a statement by trying to roar on both sides of the ball, but this is Ohio State and the formula works. Don’t screw up on offense, win the special teams battle, and take the win.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 30 … Minnesota 13 ... Line: Ohio State -18
Must See Rating: (Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) 5 ... This Is It 1) … 3
-Free Expert Football Predictions

- Week 8, Part 2 (Penn State at Michigan, & more)