2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions - Sept. 4
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
Posted Aug 31, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten game, Sept. 4

2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 1 ... Sept. 4 Games

- Week 1, Part  2 ... Connecticut at Michigan, & More

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Connecticut (0-0) at Michigan (0-0) Sept. 4, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … Is this the beginning of the resurrection of Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez or the beginning of the end? It's year three of the Rich Rod era in Ann Arbor, and a combination of poor results and off-field allegations has this experiment teetering on the brink of extinction. The Wolverines have entered the dark ages, going 8-16 over the last two seasons and slipping considerably in the Big Ten pecking order. With so many distractions, neither the coach nor the school can handle a slow start at home. Connecticut arrives riding a wave of optimism and a four-game winning streak, including upsets of Notre Dame in South Bend and South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Head coach Randy Edsall couldn't be on a more opposite career spectrum than Rodriguez, fielding offers for promotions at the end of most seasons. Much like the upset of the Irish last November, this is another opportunity for the Huskies to make a statement to a wider audience that's often unaware of what's been happening in Storrs.
Why Connecticut Might Win: For the Huskies, it's all about the running game, stopping it and establishing it. On offense, Jordan Todman will be looking for his second straight 1,000-yard season, running behind a physical, veteran line. He'll be facing a suspect Michigan defense that was at the crux of last year's season-ending collapse. Defensively, Connecticut perennially does an outstanding job of minimizing damage on the ground. This year's edition is particularly tough in the middle, with tackles Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes and linebackers Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus. If the Huskies can force enough third-and-long situations, it'll spell problems for an average Wolverine passing game.
Why Michigan Might Win: While the Wolverines struggled vertically in 2009, this could be a nice spot to begin turning things around. Sophomore QB Denard Robinson is an electrifying playmaker in the open field, but he's also an improving passer with access to talented receivers Roy Roundtree, Martavious Odoms, and Junior Hemingway. The Huskies are a little shaky in the secondary and have serious concerns at defensive end, which will give Robinson (or Tate Forcier or Devin Gardner) the time needed to stretch out the defense. Connecticut may not have the same luxury when Michigan stacks the box. QB Zach Frazer has been up-and-down, and his receivers are marginal. If Frazer can't open things up a little, it'll allow the Wolverines to press up Obi Ezeh, Craig Roh, and Jonas Mouton to stop Todman.
What To Watch Out For: You think Edsall smells blood in the water now that Rodriguez is in obvious peril? Edsall is 0-4 in this head-to-head coaching match up, losing by a combined 179-64 from 2004-07 when both were in the Big East. The last time Connecticut and West Virginia met, the Huskies were embarrassed, 66-21. You have to believe Edsall would love breaking through in a spot that's garnering so much national attention.
What Will Happen: Why not? Last season's finish has Connecticut confident, feeling it has everything to gain and nothing to lose on Saturday. Michigan, on the other hand, will be tight, knowing it's already in must-win territory. Yes, the Big House is still a tough venue, but the Huskies' ability to control the clock with Todman and limit big plays on defense will provide the fuel for a mild upset and more agony for Rodriguez.
CFN Prediction: Connecticut 23 … Michigan 21 … Line: Michigan -3
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1… 4
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Towson (0-0) at Indiana (0-0) Sept. 2, 7:30 BTN

Here's The Deal … Indiana always needs as many tune up games as it can get to pad the record, and fattening up on Towson, followed up by an open date, will be a nice way to ease the way into … Western Kentucky?! The Hoosiers have the potential to put up big offensive numbers, and they should be able to put on a show against the Tigers, who will struggle to avoid the Colonial Athletic Association basement. This is a game for the Hoosier offense to find its timing, get the high-powered passing game rolling, and treat the IU fans to a nice, easy layup to start out the season.
Why Towson Might Win: If the Tigers can figure out their quarterback situation, they should be able to light up a mediocre IU secondary. Three starters have to be replaced and it's looking for help from everywhere. It's a patchwork group going into the fall, and there could be several changes in the rotation before the right combination is found. Towson might not have a big-time passing attack, finishing 101st in the FCS last year, and with quarterback issues going into this season, but there might be a few chances to bomb away to stay in the game. On the other side of the ball, the defense gets a big break with IU star WR Tandon Doss out with a groin injury.
Why Indiana Might Win: The Tigers are trying to find a quarterback. After missing most of last year with a knee injury, sophomore Peter Athens could end up being the best option, but veteran Bart Blanchard is still in the mix. It doesn't really matter; the offense won't be nearly good enough to keep up the pace. The Towson defense might be aggressive and could get into the backfield from time to time, but the line will give up yards in chunks and the secondary can be dinked and dunked on to death.
What To Watch Out For: Last year, the question was whether or not IU QB Ben Chappell could handle the full-time workload. Now the goal is to get everything rocking at a higher level with one of Big Ten's best under-the-radar units, the receiving corps, certain to come up with a big year. It all starts this week as Chappell needs to show right away that IU's offense needs to be something to fear with a big performance against a bad defense. This is also the game to get Darius Willis and the ground game going right away. Never healthy last year, now the star running back is ready to roll and should get 100 yards without much of a problem.
What Will Happen: Indiana struggled to get by Eastern Kentucky in last year's opener 19-13, but there won't be the same issues this season. Towson will put a few points on the board, but the Hoosiers will crank out over 500 yards of offense in good scrimmage. Everything will be clicking for the IU attack by the second quarter.
CFN Prediction: Indiana 52 … Towson 17 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 1
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Marshall (0-0) at Ohio State (0-0) Sept. 2, 7:30 ET, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal … Despite operating in neighboring states and being separated by just 140 highway miles, Ohio State and Marshall will be meeting for just the second time ever. The Buckeyes begin the season on the short list of national championship contenders, trotting out a veteran team with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a Rose Bowl win in the rear view mirror. With a visit from Miami in the on-deck circle, they need to use this opener wisely, smoothing out any wrinkles that have surfaced in the offseason. For the Herd, the trip to Columbus marks the beginning of the Doc Holliday era in Huntington. A once-dominant mid-major, the program fell on hard times under former Buckeye assistant Mark Snyder, losing at least six games in each of the last six years. Holliday brings a new energy and outlook, but then again, the same thing was said about Snyder when he succeeded Bob Pruett.
Why Marshall Might Win: By the Conference USA measuring stick, the Herd has a feisty veteran defense, especially in the front seven. The combination of Michael Janac and Vinny Curry along the defensive line and Mario Harvey and Kellen Harris at linebacker allow Marshall to hold the line of scrimmage and keep the ball in front of it. Even as QB Terrelle Pryor continues to evolve for the Buckeyes, the passing game can still be spotty and the offense needs to become more efficient for all four quarters.
Why Ohio State Might Win: After ranking among the nation's leaders a year ago, there are no signs of retreat for the Buckeye defense. In fact, this could wind up being one of the stingiest of the Jim Tressel era, which is saying a mouthful. While not quite a finished product, Ohio State remains nasty with Cameron Heyward up front, Ross Homan and Brian Rolle at linebacker, and the return of three starting defensive backs. Running on this group won't happen, which means it'll be up to the sketchy and turnover-prone Marshall quarterbacks to keep drives alive. Don't count on it.
What To Watch Out For: If it's true that the Buckeyes want to open things up a little more in the passing game, it'll mean an expanded role for receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher and TE Jake Stoneburner. Posey and Sanzenbacher were last year's top two pass-catchers, and will be facing an average Herd secondary moving forward without top cover guy DeQuan Bembry.
What Will Happen: With a visit from the Hurricanes looming large, don't expect Ohio State to unveil the entire playbook for Marshall. It won't be necessary. The Buckeyes will out muscle the Herd, draping it on defense and getting more than enough production from Pryor and RB Brandon Saine to put this one out of reach before halftime.
CFN Prediction: Ohio State 35 … Marshall 9 … Line: Ohio State -28.5
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 2
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Minnesota (0-0) at Middle Tennessee (0-0) Sept. 2, 7:30, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … There's a good chance this could be the best Big Ten game of the opening weekend if the Blue Raiders can rally past the adversity of losing its star. Middle Tennessee is coming off a ten-win season and is on a seven-game winning streak going back to last year and were able to beat Maryland while losing to Mississippi State and Clemson, and to start off 2010, getting a win over a BCS Conference team would do wonders for the program and the Sun Belt. However, star QB Dwight Dasher is ineligible meaning the rest of the team will have to pick up the slack (more about that in a moment). Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster is already on a hot seat, and the last thing he needs it to start off the season losing to a Sun Belt team, even one that might be the best in the league by a ten-mile wide margin. Even without Dasher, with a fearsome pass rush and just enough athletes to keep up, it's all there for MT to come up with the win, while Minnesota has to establish right away that things have changed since an inconsistent and disappointing 6-7 2009. The Gophers have USC coming up in a few weeks, so anything positive they can do now is a must to avoid a rough start.
Why Minnesota Might Win: The pressure is all on Middle Tennessee. Coming off a huge 2009 and with everyone praising the Blue Raider offense all offseason, the expectations are there to not only play well against a BCS conference team, but win. While the Minnesota defense has a ton of issues and concerns, it should be more aggressive this year and should do a solid job in the takeaway department as the year goes on and gets a huge help with the loss of Dasher. Offensively, the Gophers are loaded with veterans and will hardly have a problem going on the road to start the season.
Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: Blue Raider defensive coordinator Randall McCray knows the Gophers. After spending the last four years at Wisconsin, McCray is just familiar enough with Minnesota to know what the offense is going to try to do and should have his athletic defensive front ready. Yeah, there might be a lot of talk around Minnesota about doing more for the running game, but this game will be all about the passing attack trying to click, and that's going to be hard to do with QB Adam Weber under pressure for most of the game. The Minnesota offensive front should be better than last year, but it's still going to struggle a bit after finishing 113th in the nation in sacks allowed. Middle Tennessee finished sixth in the nation in sacks last season and second in tackles for loss.
What To Watch Out For: Logan Kilgore vs. the Minnesota linebackers. Dasher was suspended indefinitely for accept a loan when he wasn't supposed to, and now it's up to Kilgore, a 6-3, 174-pound bomber from Bakersfield College who throws darts. That means the very, very shaky Gopher linebacking corps will be under fire to keep the gains off the short pass plays to a minimum and keep the yards after the catch to zero. With star defensive back Kim Royston likely out as his injured leg is still healing, the linebackers will have to make most of the big plays.
What Will Happen: Minnesota is fed up, and it's not going to take it anymore. This won't be a thing of beauty as QB Adam Weber will be under pressure for most of the game, but the Gopher offensive front will pound away in the second half as the ground game will come up with one of its best performances in the Brewster era. Kilgore will put up big numbers, but he'll also throw three drive-crushing picks.
CFN Prediction: Minnesota 27 … Middle Tennessee 17 … Line: Middle Tennessee -4
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 3
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Western Michigan (0-0) at Michigan State (0-0) Sept. 4, 12:00, ESPN2, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … For those of you fired up for the rematch of last year's 49-14 Michigan State thumping of the Broncos, you have your wish. MSU collapsed to Central Michigan in Game Two of last year, 29-27, so it's not like the MAC can't play in East Lansing, but it would be a total disaster for the Big Ten if this isn't a blowout. Western Michigan is always decent, but this should be a bit of a rebuilding year with no major strengths and without QB Tim Hiller to lead the way. On the flip side, this is the season MSU has to make a big leap forward and rise up from the controversy and suspensions that gutted the team last year. On the outside of the preseason picks to finish in the top three in the Big Ten, the talent level is there to be a contender all season long, and the offense should be among the league's most explosive. If nothing else, there should be plenty of fireworks, this should be a nice test for the mediocre MSU secondary, and this should be a good indication of things to come for both sides. If the Spartans win in a walk, they should be dialed in for the first part of the season, but if they struggle in any way, next week's game against Florida Atlantic will be more than just a tune up for Notre Dame. If WMU can pull off the upset, it's time to get excited with Nicholls State coming up next before the MAC opener against Toledo.
Why Western Michigan Might Win: Bombs away. The MSU pass defense finished 112th in the nation and last in the Big Ten allowing 268 yards per outing even though the pass rush was consistently fantastic. The Broncos didn't exactly take advantage in last year's game with Hiller completing 15-of-37 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, but in the opener with everyone trying to get their bearings, the chances will be there for new starter, Alex Carder, to open it up a bit and push the ball down the field. This will be a shootout, and WMU is more than equipped to keep up the pace with a receiving corps good enough to put up big numbers and create several big plays.
Why Michigan State Might Win: The MSU secondary might be an issue, but the Broncos have bigger problems. The WMU secondary has been a puzzling disaster over the last few years. There's a ton of talent, athletes to burn, and plenty of options … and no production. Last year, the pass defense gave up 383 yards and three touchdowns while also tearing it up on the ground with 219 yards and four scores. The Spartan passing game should be the star of the Big Ten season, and with five of the top six receivers returning, it should be fun ‘n' gun time with at least 300 yards of passing offense. Considering WMU's defensive front doesn't have a great pass rush to rely on, the Spartans should get a huge day from …
What To Watch Out For: QB Kirk Cousins, who has the job all to himself. With Keith Nichol moving from quarterback to receiver in a full-time role, it's up to Cousins to blossom into the leader and the star of the attack, and it starts here. Last year, he was having a decent season and then blew up against the Broncos completing 22-of-25 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns. WMU knows this and will go all out to generate a little bit of pressure on the junior, but it shouldn't matter. If Cousins can do what he did last year, or come close, the spotlight will be on as one of the potential breakout stars of the first half of the season.
What Will Happen: It's not going to be the disaster that last year's blowout was, but it should still be a show for the Michigan State offense. WMU isn't going to be a pushover and it'll play hard for the first 20 minutes or so, but the balance of the Spartan attack will take over and there will be at least two big home runs hit to put the battle out of reach. However, the storyline after the game might be how the MSU defense allowed 350 yards and struggled a bit too much to get off the field.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 37 … Western Michigan 16 … Line: Michigan State -20.5
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 2
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Youngstown State (0-0) vs. Penn State (0-0) Sept. 4, 12:00

Here's The Deal … Penn State is going to Alabama next week, so it can be forgiven for a layup to start the season. There's a lot of tuning up to be done with a new quarterback, a new starting linebacking corps, and the need to find more pop and explosion to an offense that sputtered and coughed against the defenses with a pulse. Youngstown State will hardly provide much more than a speed bump with a mediocre team returning that should finish in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference pack, but new head coach Eric Wolford has some decent parts to play around with and an offense that should be able to throw the ball a little bit.
Why Youngstown State Might Win: Is Penn State going to be sharp with a new starting quarterback? The offense that was full of veterans last year, and led by sixth-year quarterback Daryll Clark, only cranked 28.25 points per game and didn't obliterate enough inferior teams with the 52-3 drubbing of Eastern Illinois the one true uggo in a non-conference slate full of yawners. It's not like Penn State had any problem with Akron or Temple, but the attack wasn't quite as sharp as it should've been. Before going to Tuscaloosa, this game is about finding what works, and it might not always be pretty. However …
Why Penn State Might Win: If the PSU passing game is going to click, it could happen right away. The Penguins were decent against the pass last year, but there are several big changes in the secondary and the defensive front has to find some semblance of a pass rush after finishing 100th in the FCS in sacks and 115th in tackles for loss. The Nittany Lion offensive line is looking to make a splash right away after a mediocre 2009, and it's going to go full-out knowing it has to be ready for the Tide defensive front next week. No one in the Penn State backfield will be touched.
What To Watch Out For: YSU has some quarterback issues with Kurt Hess finally taking over the starting quarterback job over Marc Kanetsky late this summer, but the focus will be on the Penn State situation that's still up in the air. Kevin Newsome has all the tools and all the talent to grow into the star of the show, but he hasn't played up to his talent in practices and has left the job open. Matt McGloin is a former walk-on with just enough athleticism to get some playing time, but he has had a nasty habit of giving the ball to the defense way too often in practices. In a game like this, everyone should get a chance to show what they can do in a tryout to see who gets the call against Bama.
What Will Happen: The Penn State quarterback situation won't matter much with the offensive line taking control right away and the ground game barreling for at least 250 yards. Evan Royster will crank out 100 yards in the first half and the outcome will be decided after the first two drives.
CFN Prediction: Penn State 45 … Youngstown State 3 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 1
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