2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, (Mich. vs. Wis.)

Posted Nov 11, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 11 Big Ten Games, Part 2

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 11 ... Nov. 14 Games, Part 2

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
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Michigan (5-5) at Wisconsin (7-2), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: Alright, Wisconsin, if you're any good, and you really want to make a big statement and show that a possible 10-2 season (with Northwestern and Hawaii to close things out) is worthy of at least being in the discussion for an at-large BCS bid, then you have to drill this Michigan team in an ugly blowout. There are no excuses. Motivation? All head coach Bret Bielema has to do is put on a tape of last year's choke in Ann Arbor when the Badgers blew a 19-7 lead by giving up 20 fourth quarter points in a 27-25 loss that would turn out to be the only highlight in Michigan's abysmal season. But Michigan also has something to play for needing to beat the Badgers this week to get bowl eligible, or else it'll take a win over Ohio State to get the job done. The beleaguered Wolverines are better than they're getting hammered for. On a three game losing streak, and losers of five of their last six games with a 1-5 Big Ten record, these aren't good times for Rich Rodriguez, even though this is a rebuilding program that needs time to get to the level the fans are hoping for. A win over Wisconsin in Madison would change things around in a big hurry, and a win against Ohio State would definitely be a major kickstart to the era, but the defense has to get on the bus and make the trip, and the offense has to do more in the clutch.
Why Michigan might win: Wisconsin can't close. For a team that's able to pound away with a tremendous running game and with a defense that's not all that bad, it's having a nightmare of a time in close games late. The Badgers are winning, but Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan State, Fresno State, and Northern Illinois were all getting their lunches handed to them, and they all had chances in the final moments to pull out comebacks wins. Tate Forcier, as much as he is struggling and as banged up as he is, has a knack for getting into a groove and rallying the Wolverines back from the dead. He did it against Notre Dame, almost pulled it off against Michigan State, and he is the type of baller who can give a flaky Wisconsin defense fits if he gets the chance to shine late.
Why Wisconsin might win: Michigan's defense has been a disaster over the last few weeks. Ever since the blowout over Delaware, teams have taken turns finding ways to move the ball on the Michigan D. Penn State threw at will, Illinois tore off 377 rushing yards, and Purdue bombed away for 367 yards. Wisconsin has been more balanced than you might think, averaging 206 rushing yards and 198 passing yards per game, and unlike past years, there are more receiving weapons making plays. Moving the ball this year hasn't been a problem against everyone but Iowa, and Michigan's defense isn't playing at a high enough level to shut the Badgers down.
Who to watch: Wisconsin sophomore Nick Toon, son of Badger great, Al Toon, has been a consistently clutch target all season long. He only has 37 catches on the year for 535 yards and two touchdowns, but he's always coming up with the big play needed to keep drives alive including a brilliant grab on a late third down play last week to close out Indiana. For Michigan, the key is to keep Brandon Minor hot. When the senior running back is on, the Michigan offense is fantastic. However, he might have rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns last week, but he has been in and out of the mix all season long banged up at times and ineffective in other games. Wisconsin will key on stopping him first, and Forcier has to keep the chains moving with his legs and short passing game to take advantage.
What will happen: Michigan will move the ball well at times, but it'll keep screwing up. The Badgers will use all three of their backs, the banged up John Clay, Montee Ball, and Zach Brown, to pound away on the Wolverine defense and control the clock before pulling away late.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 38 … Michigan 16 ... Line: Wisconsin -9
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 3
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Northwestern (6-4) at Illinois (3-6), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14, ESPN Classic

Why to watch: Three weeks ago this appeared to be nothing more than a play-out-the-string game between two mediocre teams. Now, Northwestern is looking to solidify its bowl position after its breakthrough win over Iowa last week and Illinois is trying to get a third straight win to keep its improbable bowl hopes alive. Absolutely miserable over the first seven games of the season, the Illini turned things around with a stunning blowout over Michigan before going to Minnesota and pulling off a 35-32 win. There's the potential for a national statement to be made in a few weeks at Cincinnati, and the regular season finishes against Fresno State, but for now, getting a win over the Wildcats would be enough to generate a big buzz.
Why Northwestern might win: Just when it seemed like Illinois woke up and was playing up to its talent level in a blowout over Minnesota, it turned into Illinois again giving up 22 points in the fourth quarter to almost blow the big lead. Illinois thinks it's really good, and the college football world has been waiting for it to show up and play like a big-time program, but the reality is that this isn't a very good team. Mike Kafka is expected to be back under center for the Wildcats after leaving the Iowa game with an injured hamstring, and if he's right, he should be able to torch a mediocre Illini secondary that has allowed 200 yards or more in three of its last four games.
Why Illinois might win: Northwestern isn't good, either. It's opportunistic, and it has found way to pull out wins, but it has struggled way too much this year against bad teams like Miami University and Eastern Michigan, and it doesn't have the firepower to keep up if this turns into a shootout. If Illinois plays its best game and Northwestern is playing up to its capabilities, Illinois wins. There's no Wildcat running game to speak off, points are almost impossible to come by, scoring more than 17 points just once in the last five games, and needing a collapse from Indiana to make that happen, and the special teams have been mediocre. However, for the second straight week, after getting to tee off on Iowa's James Vandenberg after Ricky Stanzi got knocked, the Wildcats get to face a young quarterback in …
Who to watch: … Illinois redshirt freshman Jacob Charest. After Juice Williams got knocked out last week with an ankle injury, Charest came in and was fantastic completing 10-of-19 passes for 185 yards and a score. He's not a runner in any way, at least compared to Williams, and he's not necessarily the right fit for Illinois and its offense, but the 6-4, 220-pounder has a live arm and has the ability to utilize the tremendous receiving corps down the field. He needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum and press the banged up Wildcat secondary deep.
What will happen: Northwestern doesn't have enough offense to keep up if Illinois is playing well. Never discount the concept of momentum when it comes to a flaky team like Illinois, and on a hot streak, compared to what the first part of the season was like, the production will continue to set up a big game at Cincinnati in a few weeks.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 27 … Northwestern 23 ... Line: Northwestern -5.5
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 3
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Michigan State (5-5) at Purdue (4-6), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14

Why to watch: This is about as close to a playoff game as it gets with both teams in desperate need of a win for bowl eligibility. Purdue needs to win this week and beat Indiana to close out an improbable season 6-6, while Michigan State has to win now or face the daunting task of beating Penn State to get to the six-win mark. The Boilermakers have won three of their last four games highlighted by the stunning win over Ohio State and helped by last week's 38-36 thriller over Michigan. The offense is playing well enough to overcome a mediocre defense, but no matter happens over the last two games, the needle is pointed up for Danny Hope's program. For Michigan State, the disappointing season turned back around with a blowout win over Western Michigan. The Spartans have been painfully close all season long without all five losses coming by eight points or fewer and with defeats to Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Iowa each a play away from going the other way. The league's No. 1 offense has to be ready for a shootout, and if the Purdue attack can avoid making major mistakes, this should be a fun, wild game.
Why Michigan State might win: The Spartans should be able to run without a problem. This isn't necessarily a running team, leading the Big Ten in passing and total offense, but it shouldn't have a problem pounding away on a Purdue defensive front that's great at getting into the backfield but gets gashed against the run. Michigan and Wisconsin combined for 581 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and the Boilermakers have allowed 25 scores. The Purdue secondary has hardly been a rock, but MSU should start off pounding away with a ground game that ran for 219 yards and four scores, with all the touchdowns coming from Ashton Leggett.
Why Purdue might win: Purdue's biggest problem so far has been turnovers, with dropped passes and ill-timed penalties also being in the mix. Fortunately for the Boilermakers, Michigan State doesn't take the ball away with a mere 11 takeaways on the season. This is a good Spartan defense and it's great at providing pressure, but it doesn't do much to change games and change momentum. On the other side, the MSU offense has been great at cranking out passing yards, but it's about to have problems against a Purdue pass rush that steadily hits quarterbacks. The MSU offensive line has been strong in pass protection, but it's about to have issues against Ryan Kerrigan and the Boilermaker defensive front.
Who to watch: The Michigan State passing game was playing around with a dual quarterback system early in the season, but Kirk Cousins has settled into the role as the main man and the offense has taken off. Well, the scoring hasn't always been there, but the yards have come in bunches over the last month with Cousins throwing for 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns with just an interception against Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota and Western Michigan. He put together a brilliant performance against the Broncos completing 22-of-25 passes for 353 yards and two scores, and he'll have to be equally strong to get MSU past the surging Boilermakers.
What will happen: It's going to be an up-and-down shootout with Michigan State's defense doing a little bit more in crunch time. No, the Spartans don't force turnovers, but they'll by +2 in turnover margin just by sheer dumb luck. That, and the effectiveness of the offensive balance, will be enough to get bowl eligible.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 38 … Purdue 30 ... Line: Michigan State -2.5
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 3
-Free Expert Football Predictions

- Week 11, Part 1