2009 Big 10 Fearless Picks, Week 12
Michigan QB Tate Forcier
Michigan QB Tate Forcier
Posted Nov 18, 2009

It can all change with one win. For all the issues and all the controversies, Tate Forcier can revitalize the Michigan program with one big win over archrival Ohio State. The game might have lost its luster, but it's still Ohio State - Michigan. That's not the only big game in the Big Ten this week. Check out the Week 12 Fearless Predictions.

2009 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 12 ... Nov. 21 Games

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
- Big Ten Conference Page, Picks, Roundup, Standings & More

Big Ten Fearless Predictions
- Week 1
| USC vs. Ohio StateWeek 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
- Week 6 | Week 7 |  Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11

- Week 12, Part 2 (PSU vs. Mich State, and Purdue vs. IU)

Game of the Week

Ohio State (9-2) at Michigan (5-6) , 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 21, ABC

Why to watch: After all the problems, all the bizarre paperwork problems with compliance officers, and all the losses, Rich Rodriguez can go from hot seat to hot coach with one win. He hasn't been allowed to have a grace period to rebuild the program, and he hasn't been allowed much time to bring in his players to mold Michigan into his image and vision. While he won't be fired this year, even if the Wolverines get blown away 55-0 by the Buckeyes to end the season with a five-game losing skid, he'll be on double secret probation in 2010. But if he can lead Michigan to a win, not only will there be a bowl game at the end of the rough journey, but it'll be the first win over Ohio State since 2003. Lose, and the season is over.

Ohio State can say all the right thing about being fired up for a rivalry that was the best in all of sports just a few short years ago, but the reality is that none of the players know what it's like to lose to the Wolverine, and the big game was last week with an overtime win over Iowa to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time under Jim Tressel. Of course, Tressel hasn't taken a team to Pasadena because he was too busy leading the way to national championship games, and while getting the Big Ten's BCS bid is fantastic by itself, in so many ways this has been a special season for other reasons. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes, and it was, but they're going to the BCS while other monster programs, like USC and Oklahoma, have collapsed. There's something to be said about the conservative steadiness of Tressel's teams, and while they might not have flash and dash, there's a floor on how far they can fall. However, for all the positives and all the good things that happened since the loss to Purdue, and even with everyone still smelling the Roses, it will be a long, long six weeks in Columbus if the Buckeyes lose to Michigan.

It's Ohio State vs. Michigan. It's late November. It's still fun.

Why Ohio State might win: You know exactly what the formula is. Ohio State has a better defense, doesn't make mistakes, and has a running game that's starting to hit its stride. The gameplan will be conservative, the defense will keep Michigan from jumping out to a lead of any significance, the Wolverine mistakes will come, Ohio State will capitalize, and everyone will go about their day. OSU is seventh in the nation in turnover margin and fourth in run defense. Since Michigan has to run to win, and it won't be able to, that means Tate Forcier is going to have to make things happen through the air. While he'll be great at times, he was excellent at keeping the chains moving against Wisconsin, he'll also make a slew of errors. He's still just a true freshman, even this late in the year, and he's still making a rookie mistakes on a regular basis to offset the good plays. Michigan is 102nd in the nation in turnover margin giving away 11 picks and 12 fumbles and is sure to give it away at least three times. How mediocre is this Michigan team? It only turned the ball over once against Wisconsin, got a fumble return for a score, and still got blown out.
Why Michigan might win: Michigan has a better passing game than you think. Forgetting the raw numbers and the rankings, when Forcier is in a groove, he can make things happen on the move and does a nice job when plays break down. The Wolverines are averaging 195.6 passing yards per game and 195.8 on the ground, and there will be enough of a balance to keep the Buckeyes from teeing off on the ground attack. Defensively, the line is just good enough at getting into the backfield that there should be several problems for Terrelle Pryor whenever he tries to scramble. But for Michigan to win, it's going to take something beyond the mere Xs and Os. It's going to take Ohio State's head being on a plane to California and it's going to take Forcier playing out of his melon for a quarter. The Wolverines have to get an early lead and force Pryor to start throwing.
Who to watch: Forcier has been better than you think. Michigan's collapse over the second half of the season has been because the defense can't stop anyone. Forcier, mistakes and all, has fought through injuries to play well down the stretch. He was awful against Penn State's defense, but he was accurate and did a better job of making the right decisions against Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin. What he has to avoid is the drive-killing, momentum-changing mistake that seems to happen once a half. Whether it's taking a sack after trying to make something happen that's not there, or trying to run when he should be giving up the ball, or misfiring on the one pass the team desperately needs completed, he can't afford to be anything but perfect to beat the Buckeyes. For OSU, the more big plays Brandon Saine can come up with, the less Pryor has to do. The junior tore off 103 yards and two scores against Iowa last week, and he got a solid, effective 68 yards on 20 carries (it was a better game than the stats would indicate) against Penn State. While he hasn't been a workhorse, he might be the first option in the OSU gameplan to try to establish the ground game right away.
What will happen: Michigan will be flying around and will be playing with another level of intensity, and then Ohio State will wake up in time to get the win. The Wolverine defense isn't good enough to hang tough for a full sixty minutes against anyone with a pulse, and while OSU will come up with a shaky win, it'll be a win.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 24 … Michigan 13 ... Line: Ohio State -12.5
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 4
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Minnesota (6-5) at Iowa (9-2), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 21, ESPN

Why to watch: It set back college football decades. In last year's battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, Minnesota was supposed to be fired up in the final Gopher game to be played in the Metrodome, and it needed a win over its rival to turn around a dying season. Instead, Iowa won 55-0, converted 12-of-18 third down chances, gained 477 yards of total offense to Minnesota's 134, with seven yards rushing, in a game that was far, far worse than the statistics might indicate. This year's game could be just as bad if Minnesota plays like it did in a 16-13 win over South Dakota State, a win over an FCS team without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Gophers have won two of their last three games, but they've been bizarre, coming up with a tremendous passing effort to beat Michigan State before getting nothing in a loss to Illinois and throwing for 94 yards against the Jackrabbits. While the Gophers are floundering, even with a 6-5 record and a bowl bid to come, Iowa has been terrific despite two straight losses. It might be easy to be a bit down after losing out on the Rose Bowl after an overtime loss to Ohio State, but the Hawkeyes need to be impressive to have a shot at a BCS game. At 10-2, and with a fan base that travel Iowa might be Fiesta Bowl bound with a win, while a loss might open up the door for Penn State or Wisconsin to get into the BCS.
Why Minnesota might win: Will James Vandenberg have another strong game? The Iowa quarterback was terrific in the loss to Ohio State, but was awful in the loss to Northwestern. With little proven running game to pick up the slack, the Hawkeyes will need Vandenberg to be sharp, or else suffer the same problems they had against Indiana and Northwestern at home. While the Iowa pass defense stats are solid, the secondary can be thrown on by a relatively sharp, veteran passer. Adam Weber is as inconsistent as they come, but he has the potential to get hot and press the Iowa secondary.
Why Iowa might win: The Minnesota offense has gone bye-bye. Forget the out-of-left-field effort against Michigan State, there's no running game, no go-to target with Eric Decker gone, and not enough production from the line to put the slightest dent in the Iowa defensive front seven. Vandenberg doesn't have to worry about a pass rush, there isn't any, while the Iowa defensive front should have no problems getting into the backfield against a porous UM O line. If Iowa has its head on straight, it should come up with the big plays needed to put the game away early on.
Who to watch: If Pat Angerer isn't the best linebacker in America, he deserves to be considered among the top three. The Iowa senior has been a one-man wrecking crew at times with a whopping 79 solo tackles, including 13 against Northwestern, and has made 119 stops with a sack on the year. But stopping the run isn't going to be his job this week against a Minnesota offense that'll mostly rely on the pass; he has been solid in pass coverage, too. This is his final regular season game, and he'll be sure to go out with a bang.
What will happen: Iowa will get over the disappointment of last week in a big hurry on the way to a blowout win and a spot in the BCS. Minnesota will be awful … again.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 40 … Minnesota 13 ... Line: Iowa -10
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 3
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Wisconsin (8-2) at Northwestern (7-4) , 3:30 EST, Saturday, November 21, Big 10 Network

Why to watch: Depending on what happens to Penn State against Michigan State and Iowa against Minnesota, this game could turn out to be for a spot in a New Year's Day bowl game. Wisconsin has slight dreams of getting into the BCS, but it needs to beat the Wildcats this week and blast away on Hawaii for a 10-2 record and needs help from the Gophers and Spartans. More likely, the Badgers will be in Florida for a January 1st game, along with Penn State, but Northwestern can could throw a wrench into those plans with a third win in a row and a fourth win in five weeks. There's nothing pretty about Northwestern, and a New Year's Day game is probably out because of a lack of travelling fan base, but the team is finding ways to get the job done and is having a rock-solid season. For good and bad, the Wildcats have won five games by a touchdown or less, and while that's great against teams like Iowa and Purdue, there was also a close call against a miserable Eastern Michigan team. Wisconsin has won three straight with the only losses coming to Iowa and Penn State, but the biggest win this year came against Michigan State. If the Badgers are for real, they win this game without a problem.
Why Wisconsin might win: The offense is humming. Michigan was hanging tough for a while in Madison last week, but the Badger balance was way too much to overcome. QB Scott Tolzien was sharp, the ground game was the Wisconsin ground game, and it was a strong 60 minute performance on the way to the win. In their last three games, the Badgers have rushed for 266 yards, 294 yards, and 229 yards, and Northwestern gave up 212 yards last week to Illinois. If this gets into any sort of a shootout, then the Wildcats are in trouble. They don't have the offense to keep up and they don't put points on the board, having failed to score more than 30 points in any of the last eight games. Wisconsin has hung 30 points or more in seven of its eight wins.
Why Northwestern might win: Tolzien will make mistakes under pressure. Pat Fitzgerald's defense is strong at manufacturing pressure into the backfield, and if the Badger ground game isn't working early on, then it'll be up to Tolzien to continue to make big plays. He'll come up with several nice throws, but he's always good for at least a big interception per game and last week he lost a fumble which was returned for a score. Northwestern's defense doesn't give up a slew of big plays and has held up well against anyone who has tried to pound away with the running game. Iowa tried to run and couldn't, Illinois did run and lost.
Who to watch: Mike Kafka can make a claim to first-team All-Big Ten honors this year. The Wildcat senior has always been able to run, but he has also become a tremendous passer with 2,572 yards on the season with four 300-yard games including a 305-yard effort against the Illini last week. He has only thrown ten touchdown passes on the year, but he has been able to keep his mistakes to a minimum with three of his seven thrown picks coming early against Indiana. He'll be under pressure for most of the day from O'Brien Schofield and a strong Badger defensive front, and with no running game to help the cause, he'll have to come up with a brilliant final regular season game to get the win.
What will happen: If Wisconsin wins the turnover battle or is at worst a -1, it'll win in a walk. It'll lose the turnover battle and will get pushed for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 31 … Northwestern 17 ... Line: Wisconsin -7
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 3.5
-Free Expert Football Predictions  

- Week 12, Part 2 (PSU vs. Mich State, and Purdue vs. IU)