2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, Week 10
PSU RB Evan Royster & OSU RB Dan Herron
Is this the Big Ten Championship? Iowa could all but book tickets to Pasadena if Penn State beats Ohio State, but if Dan Herron and the Buckeyes pull off the win in Happy Valley, then next week's Iowa vs. OSU game will likely be for all the roses. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 10 Big Ten Games.
2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions
Week 10 ... Nov. 7 Games
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10, Part 2 (Northwestern at Iowa, and more)
Game of the Week
Ohio State (7-2) at Penn State (8-1), 3:30 EST, Saturday, November 7, ABC
Why to watch: For all intents and purposes, call this the Big Ten Championship … for Iowa. The Hawkeyes have three games left, facing Northwestern this week and Minnesota to close, and while they've been flaky enough to potentially have problems in both of those battles, realistically, the one real chance to derail the train to Pasadena is next week at Ohio State. If the Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions this week, then it's game on for the Big Ten title in Columbus, with the winner almost certain to go to the Rose Bowl (Ohio State isn't going to lose at Michigan with the way RichRod's club is playing). But if Penn State can get the win at home, then the fun and games might be over. All Iowa would have to do is win two of its last three to go to the Rose Bowl, but the Nittany Lions will be holding out hope for two Hawkeye losses to help pave the way to Cali for the second year in a row. But even if Penn State doesn't end up winning the Big Ten title outright and doesn't end up going to the Rose Bowl, this game is still important for BCS hopes. An 11-1 Nittany Lion team would be a slam-dunk to get an at-large bid to one of the big games, and a win would finally prove that this season is for real.
Penn State has faced one good team so far, Iowa, and lost at home. Yeah, Temple might end up winning the MAC and wiping up Minnesota was nice, but with no Wisconsin on the schedule and with Michigan State struggling, taking the luster off the regular season ender, this is it. This is the chance to show that the team can play a little bit and can be compared to last year's tremendous powerhouse. But to pull off the win, the hit-or-miss offense needs to come up with its best performance of the year, and the defense has to prove it can play against a team with athletes.
Ohio State overcame the Earth-stopping loss to Purdue by beating Minnesota and New Mexico State by a combined score of 83 to 7, and while the last two weeks have been solid, the only win of note this year came against Wisconsin, while the second best win might have been against Navy. For a much-maligned team that hasn't shown enough with the passing game to get anyone excited, and with the heat coming down on the coaching staff and QB Terrelle Pryor for not being strong enough in big games, it's not an overstatement to call this a possible program changer, or at least a game that could give OSU a face-lift.
Last year's Penn State win in Columbus was one of the hardest-hitting, most physical games of the 2008 season, and this one might not be any different. With all due respect to Iowa, these are the powerhouse programs in the Big Ten waging a heavyweight fight, and depending on what happens, next week in Columbus could be truly special.
Why Ohio State might win: Penn State's offense isn't as good as the stats might indicate. Sure it's No. 1 in the league in yards and the passing game is among the most efficient in the country, but Darryl Clark and the attack haven't seen a defense with a pulse. The offensive line has been getting better and better over the last few weeks, but it has been helped by not dealing with anyone with a dangerous pass rush. Ohio State's defensive front isn't going to sack Clark on a regular basis, but it gets a good push into the backfield and it has been improving each and every week. Clark and the receiving corps will see a real live secondary, and the timing of the passing game might be a bit off with the pressure coming. If OSU could hold Wisconsin's ground game to 118 yards, it should be able to stop Evan Royster and the Nittany Lion rushing attack. But in a game like this, special teams should matter, and Penn State's return game and punting have been abysmal, however …
Why Penn State might win: … it this is the close, tight game it's supposed to be, then Ohio State not having PK Aaron Pettrey is a really big deal. Hurt last week against New Mexico State with a knee injury, Pettrey isn't expected to go meaning it'll be up to Devin Barclay to try to prove he can produce. It will also mean the offense will have to be more creative inside the 35. That's a plus for a Penn State defense that should thrive on Terrelle Pryor and a OSU passing game that's inefficient at best, a liability at worst. With Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman healthy again, the Penn State linebackers should eat up Pryor alive every time he tries to get on the move. However …
Who to watch: … Pryor had one of the best games of his young career last year in the 13-6 loss. He threw for 226 yards and didn't make a slew of mistakes outside of one interception, but he held his own against a superior defense. This season, the sophomore has been more miss than hit with the passing game, but he has started to run more efficiently and effectively over the last few weeks and he should keep the PSU linebackers on their heels a bit. If he's not fantastic and if he can't handle the Penn State speed and quickness, OSU can't win. Meanwhile, on the other side, it's time for Darryl Clark to prove he can win in the fourth quarter. For all the great things the senior has done over the course of his long career, last week's win over Northwestern was one of the only tight games he pulled out in the fourth quarter. That doesn't really count, though, because it's not like it went down to the wire, and the running game had a lot to do with that, and Clark's ability in crunch time is still in question. Last year, he threw a key interception that led to Iowa's game-winning field goal, and he knocked out of the OSU game and ended up watching the team win the game without him. This year, again against Iowa, he failed to come through in the fourth quarter. Pryor might need the better overall game to win, but Clark needs to show he can come through when things get tight.
What will happen: Clark won't need to come through in the fourth quarter. The Penn State defense will take care of business, forcing three key turnovers and allowing the offense to score on short fields. This won't be a thing of beauty … unless you're Iowa.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 17 … Ohio State 10 ... Line: Penn State -4
Must See Rating: (By The People 5 … The Men Who Stare At Goats 1) … 4.5
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Wisconsin (6-2) at Indiana (4-5), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 7, Big 10 Network
Why to watch: Wisconsin isn't going to win the Big Ten title, the losses to Ohio State and Iowa are too much to overcome, but it could finish No. 2 when all is said and done and it can position itself for a possible at-large BCS slot if everything breaks right. The Badgers overcame a rocky two game stretch, with losses to the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, to throttle Purdue 37-0, and while they have a habit of occasionally playing down to their competition, and three of the last four games are on the road, there isn't a game left on the slate that they shouldn't be at least a touchdown favorite. But Indiana, as it showed last week against Iowa, isn't going to be a pushover. It wasn't enough to lose in painful fashion at Northwestern, giving up a big lead in a 29-28 loss, but last week the Hoosiers totally collapsed in the fourth quarter in Iowa City after having the game well in hand. A bowl bid is still possible for IU, but it has to win two of its final three games, and a trip to Penn State is up next.
Why Wisconsin might win: Indiana hasn't seen a power running game yet. As crazy as it might seem considering it's so late in the Big Ten season, the Hoosiers haven't dealt with a tough, physical ground attack, and that includes Ohio State's running game and Iowa's. The IU defensive front is a strength, and it's extremely active and strong at getting into the backfield, but Wisconsin should be able to line up and flatten the front seven as the game wears on. The O line is finally getting healthy, RB John Clay is running extremely well, and the time of possession should be on UW's side.
Why Indiana might win: Overall, this isn't a bad matchup for the Hoosiers. Jammie Kirlew and the defensive front should be able to get into the backfield and pressure, and as was proven against Ohio State and Purdue, UW QB Scott Tolzien isn't accurate when he's getting hit on a regular basis. Indiana isn't going to make mistakes, it's the Big Ten leader in turnover margin, and it should be at least a +2 against a Badger team that has had fumbling issues at times to go along with Tolzien's picks. Wisconsin's corners can be thrown on, and if the IU receivers can hang on to the ball, considering Purdue dropped pass after pass last week, the passing game should be effective.
Who to watch: Wisconsin obliterated IU last season with a brutally effective ground game rushing for 441 yards and seven touchdowns. WR David Gilreath tore off 168 yards, P.J. Hill, who left for the NFL, ran for 126 yards and three scores, and John Clay rumbled for 112 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers are trying to use dynamic freshman Montee Ball more and more, and Zach Brown is extremely effective when he's not putting the ball on the ground, but the running game is all Clay at the moment. After being held in check by Ohio State and Iowa rushing for 124 yards in the two games, he pounded away for 123 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue. Not just great around the goal line, he also has the breakaway speed to score from anywhere on the field. He'll be the No. 1 target of the IU defensive front, and if he doesn't hit the 100-yard mark, UW might have big problems.
What will happen: Indiana will get over its last two painful losses with a great performance, but it won't be enough. It'll be a third straight tough loss as the Badger offense pounds away in the fourth quarter for a hard-fought win.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 34 … Indiana 24 ... Line: Wisconsin -11
Must See Rating: (By The People 5 … The Men Who Stare At Goats 1) … 3
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Western Michigan (4-5) at Michigan State (4-5) , 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 7, Big 10 Network
Why to watch: Who's going to pull up out of the nosedive? Michigan State already blew a game against a MAC team, collapsing against Central Michigan in an improbable 29-27 loss, and now it needs to beat WMU after losing two straight to Iowa and Minnesota. The Spartans could very easily be 7-2 right now with one play coming between them and wins over CMU, Notre Dame, and Iowa, but good teams win those games. MSU is good, but this isn't the great team many expected it would be early in the season. Western Michigan has been just as big a disappointment, although at a MAC level. The passing game has been fine, QB Tim Hiller has had his moments, but the defense has been a disaster and the overall play has been spotty. The best win this year was an overtime battle against a mediocre Buffalo team, but with layups against Eastern Michigan and Ball State to finish up the season, an upset this week would likely mean a 7-5 finish and a possible bowl game. MSU goes to Purdue next week and finishes up with Penn State.
Why Western Michigan might win: The Michigan State secondary has been awful. The pass rush has done its part to provide pressure, but the defensive backs are getting burned way too easily and the linebackers are struggling against backs taking short passes and turning them into big gains. Minnesota was without star WR Eric Decker and threw for 416 yards and five scores last week. Only Montana State, Illinois, and Iowa threw for under 200 yards, while the Spartans have allowed more than 300 yards three times. WMU has a banged up receiving corps, but Hiller has the ability to drop 300 yards on anyone if he gets hot.
Why Michigan State might win: The Spartan quarterbacks will get all day to throw. Kirk Cousins has taken over the starting job with Keith Nichol barely getting playing time, and he should get nice and comfy against a non-existent WMU pass rush that has come up with a mere ten sacks on the year. On the flip side, the Spartan pass rush should drop Hiller at least four times for sacks and should come up with several big hits. MSU has the Big Ten's No. 1 passing game, and it should roll at will at a WMU pass defense that's allowing 250 yards per game. However, the one fly in the ointment could be ...
Who to watch: … the banged up MSU offensive line. Minnesota battered and bruised the Spartans with RB Larry Caper suffering a concussion and safety Danny Fortener also knocked out with a head injury, but the biggest losses were on the O line where Joel Nitchman suffered a knee injury. Already without starting right guard J'Michael Deane for the last several weeks with a leg problem, the last thing MSU needs to be doing this late in the season is shuffle around the offensive front. Meanwhile, Edwin Baker should take on the lion's share of the running duties if Caper isn't able to go.
What will happen: Both teams are reeling, and this will be a big test of MSU head coach Mark Dantonio to see if he can get his team's sprits back up. There will be tons of passing and several big plays, but the MSU pass rush will be the difference. WMU doesn't have the weapons with receivers Jordan White and Juan Nunez suffering ankle injuries.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 34 … Western Michigan 20 ... Line: Michigan State -18
Must See Rating: (By The People 5 … The Men Who Stare At Goats 1) … 2
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10, Part 2 (Northwestern at Iowa, and more)