2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, Week 11
OSU QB Terrelle Pryor & Iowa QB James Vandenberg
OSU QB Terrelle Pryor & Iowa QB James Vandenberg
Posted Nov 11, 2009

Is this Terrelle Pryor's time to take Ohio State to a Rose Bowl, and the first trip to Pasadena under Jim Tressel, or does James Vandenberg become an Iowa legend by leading the way to an upset win on the way to the Rose Bowl? Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 11 Big Ten Games.

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 11 ... Nov. 14 Games

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

Iowa (9-1) at Ohio State (8-2), 3:30 EST, Saturday, November 14, ABC

Why to watch: It's the Big Ten championship game with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. While Penn State and Wisconsin are still in the chase for a piece of the final Big Ten crown, after all the tie-breakers, Iowa and Ohio State are still left standing, but barely, and the winner can answer a lot of critics and claim to have a successful, tremendous season no matter what else happens the rest of the way … if that winner is Iowa. Ohio State comes into each season looking to play for the national title, and while it fell short, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, it has a chance to go to Pasadena for the first time in the Jim Tressel era with a victory. But that's not to say that all will be happy-happy-joy-joy if the Buckeyes blow the Michigan game or get stomped by the Pac 10 representative. After the loss to Purdue a few weeks ago, when the entire program came into question, being able to rally behind a tremendous defense and a relaxed Terrelle Pryor shows that the team continues to be among the most resilient in college football. And yes, while expectations are always higher in Columbus, winning the Big Ten title is never a bad goal to hit on a yearly basis (just ask Michigan fans who now realize that the Lloyd Carr era wasn't all that bad). But it's not going to be a layup.

Iowa was just begging to be tagged after close call after close call, and finally, the breaks went the wrong way, literally, with the team going into the tank against Northwestern after losing QB Ricky Stanzi to an injured ankle. While the loss to the Wildcats hurt, it didn't really matter. Iowa wasn't going to the BCS Championship anyway, and it was going to have to beat Ohio State to get to the Rose Bowl (unless the Buckeyes gagged away a loss to Michigan). Don't just assume that Iowa will get steamrolled without Stanzi. The team didn't get to this point without knowing how to handle adversity. Iowa didn't beat Penn State in Happy Valley because of Stanzi; it won on defense. The Hawkeye passing game is ninth in the league in efficiency and sixth overall; this is a team that wins in a variety of ways, and now it's one win away from hitting a high mark in a dream year.

Appearances will also matter. There's going to be a dogfight for the open BCS slots, and while Ohio State likely won't have a shot to get in at 9-3, a 10-2 Iowa has a chance because of its travelling fan base and high profile this year. However, the Hawkeyes can't get blown out. For the Big Ten, the best possible scenario might be an Ohio State win with Iowa playing extremely well, that was the league would be almost certain to get two teams into the big money games, but Iowa is good enough, even without Stanzi, to change those plans.

Why Iowa might win: The team has had a week to process the loss of Stanzi. Everything seemed to go wrong last week after the starting QB got hurt, but now the Hawkeyes have a major advantage in the "no one respects us" category. A 17-point underdog?! The team has allowed more than 17 points just three times this year and has the defense that has found a way to rise up, especially on the road, and make shaky offenses look really, really bad. Penn State might as well have just handed the ball to the Iowa defense in the 21-10 loss. The Wisconsin running game was held to 87 yards in the loss in Madison. No one is throwing effectively on the secondary and it's not likely that Terrelle Pryor, improvement and all, is going to suddenly become Peyton Manning against the Iowa pass defense. The key will be getting a lead. Ohio State is a killer when the momentum is going its way and it has the early advantage, but if Iowa can keep this close, and if it can put a few early scores on the board, while the Buckeye collar get tighter, and tighter, and tighter … you want Pryor to have to throw the ball to win.
Why Ohio State might win: Yeah, Stanzi really did make a difference. While the defense and the offensive line have been the main reasons for Iowa's success, the formula only works if the quarterback doesn't make a slew of big mistakes and can keep the chains moving. Stanzi, however, did make a slew of monster errors in the win over Indiana, but he made amends in the fourth quarter. He was rock-steady against Wisconsin, completing 17-of-23 passes for 218 yards and a score, and he kept the chains moving when he had to in the other big games. By no means was he a big-time passer, he had 14 picks on the year, but he is the team's leader and the veteran. Ohio State's defense eats up young, inexperienced quarterbacks alive. The D has taken its game to another level at the perfect time, allowing just 14 points in the last three games and boosting the run defense numbers up to third in the country. Iowa has to win on takeaways, but Ohio State leads the league in turnover margin. Iowa has to win by running the ball, but Ohio State is third in the nation against the run. Basically, the Buckeyes might have to melt down Penn State-Indiana-style to lose.
Who to watch: Alright, James Vandenberg, your table is ready. The 6-3, 195-pound redshirt freshman was the 2007 Iowa High School Player of the Year setting several state records throwing for 7,709 yards and 93 touchdown passes. He's smart, has a live arm, and has big-time upside. He's going to be a tremendous player for Iowa, and the legend needs to start now. He was awful against Northwestern, looking like a deer caught in the headlights completing 9-of-27 passes for 82 yards and a pick, and Ohio State is going to dare him to make a throw. It's vital that Vandenberg hits on a few early throws just to show the Buckeye defense that he can. Otherwise, Iowa will be lucky to net 75 yards rushing and this could get really ugly, really quickly.
What will happen: Iowa is better than you think, but it's not good enough to win this game unless Vandenberg is terrific. He'll have a surprisingly good game, but his three interceptions will prove to be too much to overcome. The Iowa defense will do its part to keep this close, but it won't be able to do enough to get past an offense that comes up with 200 yards. This isn't going to be pretty in any way.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 19 … Iowa 10 ... Line: Ohio State -17
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 5
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South Dakota State (7-2) at Minnesota (5-5), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: Minnesota has blown this type of game before, losing to North Dakota State in 2007. But the Gophers are better than they were two years ago, and they're even more desperate. With a road trip to Iowa to finish up the regular season, they need this win to get bowl eligible. But the Jackrabbits of SDSU can play a little bit with a solid 7-2 record thanks to a fantastic defense. They haven't played an FBS team yet and they're coming off a loss to Southern Illinois, but they're 6-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and will provide a worthy foe if the Gophers sleepwalk through this game like they did in the first half of last week's loss to Illinois.
Why South Dakota State might win: No one is having any luck throwing on the SDSU defense. Second among FCS teams in pass efficiency D, the Jackrabbits had allowed just three touchdown passes and picked off 15 passes before last week's loss to SIU (when they gave up two scores). Minnesota isn't getting anything consistently going on the ground, and while it should have some success against a mediocre SDSU run defense, there might be problems if Adam Weber isn't sharp early on with the short to midrange passing game. Minnesota is dead last in the Big Ten in total offense.
Why Minnesota might win: The SDSU offense is mediocre. This is where the comparisons to the 2007 North Dakota State loss stop (that's the game that keeps getting brought up around the program when it comes to this week). That NDSU team could pound the ball with a terrific running game, but this SDSU team doesn't do any one thing all that well. The O line is fine and the passing game is efficient and effective, but if Minnesota plays up to its FBS talent level, it should be able to keep the Jackrabbits to 14 points without a problem.
Who to watch: With the way the Minnesota run defense has been struggling from time to time, there could be problems stopping SDSU junior running back Kyle Minett. The Minnesota native is a 5-10, 205-pound producer who's terrific around the goal line and great at carrying the offense with 12 scores on the year and five 100-yard games so far in a 947-yard season. He ran for 1,289 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, including 111 yards and a score against Iowa State, and if cranks out 100 yards against the Gophers, watch out.
What will happen: Which Minnesota team will show up? If there's a sense of urgency and everyone's head is on straight, like it was in the win over Michigan State, there won't be a problem. But if everyone is looking ahead to Iowa and not taking the home finale seriously, this could be a disaster. It'll be more of a fight than the Gophers might like before pulling away late.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 38 … South Dakota State 17... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 2
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Indiana (4-6) at Penn State (8-2), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14, Big Ten Network

Why to watch: How is Indiana going to blow it this week? After collapsing against Northwestern, getting blown away late by Iowa, and failing to get in field goal range late against Wisconsin, a not-that-bad season is now a loss away from being a monster disappointment. Can the Hoosiers pull off the big upset and make next week's game against Purdue for a bowl game, or is the team maxed out on solid performances? Penn State has to pick its jaw up off the mat after an ugly failure at home against Ohio State last week. The offense sputtered, the defense didn't do enough to stop the Buckeye running game, and any hope of a second straight Rose Bowl is gone. However, there's still plenty of hope for a possible at-large BCS game, and style points matter. Sure, the Nittany Lions were abysmal failures in the two big home games they needed to win (Iowa and Ohio State), but if they can blow away the Hoosiers and rip through Michigan State to end the regular season, they'll be very, very attractive to either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl. But they have to bring it. They can't just slug their way to an efficient 24-7 win, this has to be a performance that shows just how good they really are. But Indiana is playing just well enough to keep that from happening.
Why Indiana might win: Generate pressure on Penn State QB Daryll Clark and he'll make mistakes. Ohio State and Iowa each made Clark rush a little bit, even if they didn't generate a ton of sacks, and Indiana has the defensive front that can be just good enough to get into the backfield and force the Penn State offense to rush a bit. For all of Indiana's problems, it's able to protect the passer well and it's great at forcing mistakes. The Iowa game helped, but the Hoosiers have been strong all year long at taking the ball away with only Texas, Ohio, and Iowa State forcing more turnovers.
Why Penn State might win: Indiana's offense isn't going to crank out enough points unless the Nittany Lions start giving the ball away. Ohio State played about as well as it could play last week and it still only came up with 24 points. Iowa needed to force a bunch of mistakes to get to 21 points. No one else has been close against a Penn State D that has allowed more than 13 points just three times all year and has given up a touchdown or less in five games. Despite last week's problems, the Nittany Lion defense is as solid as it's been all season long helped by LB Sean Lee being back and healthy. Indiana has no prayer of running for more than 50 yards, which means …
Who to watch: … Ben Chappell needs to have the game of his life. The junior has had problems with interceptions over the last two games, throwing five picks to go along with five touchdown passes, but he is throwing the heck out of the ball. When he gets into a groove, like he did late against Wisconsin and early against Iowa, he can move the offense like a flash of lightning. But it's all about finding a rhythm, and he likely won't be able to get there against a strong Penn State D. He'll get the time to work, and he has to be razor sharp.
What will happen: Penn State's defense will clamp down in the first half on the way to a big lead, but will allow a few late scores to make the final tally look decent. Daryll Clark will rebound from the Ohio State game with a flawless performance.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 34 … Indiana 10 ... Line: Penn State -26.5
Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 2.5
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- Week 11, Part 2 (Mich at Wsc, MSU at Purdue, and more)