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2010 Big Ten Predictions - Sept. 4, Part 2
Illinois LB Martez Wilson
Illinois LB Martez Wilson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 31, 2010


Fearless Predictions for every Big Ten game, Sept. 4, Part 2


2010 Big Ten Fearless Predictions

Week 1 ... Sept. 4 Games, Part 2

- Week 1, Part 1

Eastern Illinois (0-0) vs. Iowa (0-0) Sept. 4, 12:05, TV

Here’s The Deal … Historically, Iowa obliterates the lousy opening day lamb for the slaughter, but last year was different. Northern Iowa had the Hawkeyes dead, but two late blocked field goals saved the day in a 17-16 Iowa win. Of course, Iowa turned out to be pretty good and the opener was merely an aberration, but this year’s Eastern Illinois team should be better than last year’s UNI team was and this could be a little bit closer than expected. The defending Ohio Valley Conference champions will be in the hunt for another title with an experience offense and a defense that should be among the best in the FCS. If Iowa plays up to its potential and capabilities, this will be a walk in the park, but with the always-feisty rivalry game against Iowa State up next week, and with all the expectations going into the season, this might not be the most focused team.
Why Eastern Illinois Might Win: Seven starters are back on offense (although there’s a big loss … more on that in a moment) from an attack that wasn’t all that great, and did nothing in a 52-3 loss to Penn State last year, but should be solid enough to keep the game close if Iowa starts screwing up. All offseason, Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi has been hearing over and over again about how he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum and how he has to be sharper for a full sixty minutes. If he’s still the version that threw 15 picks on the year and got the team in trouble time and again, EIU has a shot. Even if he’s great, there’s hope for the Panthers considering he completed 22-of-34 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and no picks against UNI.
Why Iowa Might Win: One of the most talented players on either side is EIU running back Mon Williams, a former Florida Gator, but he’s going to be out for the first few weeks of the season with a knee injury. Last year, the senior ripped off 870 yards and nine scores in his first year with the program, and he was going to be the centerpiece of the attack considering there’s a major question mark at quarterback. If Iowa gets any sort of a lead, EIU doesn’t have the firepower to keep up.
What To Watch Out For: It might finally be Jewel Hampton’s time ... next week. Expected to be the new star of the Iowa running game last year after Shonn Greene bolted for the NFL, Hampton suffered a knee injury and missed the entire season. Now he's suspended for a game. While the Hawkeyes have several options in the backfield, including now-starter Adam Robinson, but Hampton appears to be the best in the bunch with several great practices this offseason. He’ll have to be ready to roll with Brandon Wegher likely out with personal issues and Adam Robinson banged up, and he could have a huge breakout game behind a line looking to make a statement from the opening snap.
What Will Happen: Iowa will go back to being Iowa when it comes to the openers. From 2001 to 2008, the Hawkeyes went 8-0 winning by a combined score of 317 to 44 or an average of 39.6 to 5.5). The Iowa defense won’t allow much of anything on the ground and will come up with at least four takeaways. Be shocked if EIU gains more than 200 total yards.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 48 … Eastern Illinois 7 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 1
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Illinois (0-0) vs. Missouri (0-0) in St. Louis Sept. 4, 12:30, Fox Sports Net

Here’s The Deal … The border war has always been a big basketball rivalry, but it’s missing something on the football side mainly because Missouri has been so dominant. The Tigers have scored a total of 139 points in the three wins in the series, and with a team good enough to be in the hunt for the Big 12 title (or at least the North), it’ll take something special for the beleaguered Illini to pull off the upset. After being one of the nation’s biggest disappointments, Illinois is starting over at quarterback, lost WR Arrelious Benn to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with a shaky defense that has to start playing up to its athleticism. On the flip side, Mizzou has a sneaky-good team that’s flying under the radar a bit in the Big 12 discussion, but has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, a dangerous defensive front, and the type of talent to start the season off with a bang. Because nothing much is expected of Illinois, a win would mean everything to jump-start the Ron Zook era with Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois to follow, while the Tigers get McNeese State, San Diego State, and Miami University before getting a week off.
Why Illinois Might Win: The running game should work. The last time we saw Missouri try to stop an effective ground game, Navy tore off 385 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 bowl win. The Tiger run defense was among the best in the Big 12 last year, but Nevada ran for 218 yards and two scores and there were times when teams that wanted to run, did. Illinois didn’t have much success in last year’s loss and had to crank up the passing game to try to stay alive, but the offensive line is good enough to control the action from the start. On the other side, Missouri's running game takes a serious hit with the loss of Derrick Washington, who was suspended after being charged with sexual assault.
Why Missouri Might Win: Illinois hasn’t stopped a decent passing game in years, and it’s not going to keep the Tigers under wraps. This is a veteran Illinois secondary, but the interceptions have been lacking and there aren’t enough big plays likely to come to slow down Blaine Gabbert and an air attack that should be the best in the Big 12. Unless the Illini have come up with a few new wrinkles, the defensive front won’t get to Gabbert and won’t get into the backfield to provide enough pressure to slow things down. Making life harder is the loss of Illinois starting CB Terry Hawthorne, who’ll miss the first part of the season with a broken foot. Either Illinois has to keep up in a shootout, or it’ll be another year with another ugly start. That means all the pressure is on …
What To Watch Out For: … new starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. There was a little bit of a quarterback controversy this offseason when Jacob Charest left the program after he didn’t get the starting job, and longtime backup Eddie McGee (who rocked against the Tigers in an ill-fated comeback attempt a few years ago) is only a wide receiver, so it’ll be up to the 6-3, dual-threat redshirt freshman to come out roaring. Scheelhaase is the franchise for the foreseeable future, and if he’s not fantastic from the moment he steps on the field, the Illini will get blown out.
What Will Happen: The Illini defense could be a pleasant surprise as the Big Ten season goes on, but the offense won’t get enough out of the ground game to overcome an inconsistent day from Scheelhaase. Gabbert will throw for 300 yards as the Tigers pull away in the second half for a decisive and impressive opening day win.
CFN Prediction: Missouri 37 … Illinois 26 … Line: Missouri -13
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 3.5
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Purdue (0-0) at Notre Dame (0-0) Sept. 4, 3:30, NBC

Here’s The Deal … For Notre Dame fans, this is the beginning of the rest of their lives. After all the drama and all the ugliness from the last few years of the Charlie Weis debacle, the Irish Nation needs a new start and needs something positive from new head man Brian Kelly in what’s amounting to a must-win opener. It’s possible this will be one of the highest-profile opening day games between two teams that didn’t go to a bowl the year before, and if nothing else, it should be great theater. For all of Weis’s problems, he was able to get by the Boilermakers with a thrilling 24-21 win last year as the program has won four of the last five in the series, and there won’t be any grace period for Kelly.

Even the most desperate and die-hard of Irish fans aren’t expecting miracles right away, but new head coaches tend to rock out of the gate. Weis went 9-3 in his first season with a Fiesta Bowl appearance and was 19-6 in his first two seasons, while Ty Willingham went 10-3 in his first season in 2002. Kelly wasn’t bad at Cincinnati from the word go with a 10-3 2007 season, and he isn’t diminishing the expectations in South Bend in any way.

Purdue head man Danny Hope had a nice first season with a fun 5-7 season that could’ve been far, far better with a little bit of luck. The Boilermakers lost five games by six points or fewer (and four by three or fewer) and have an improved, more experienced team coming into this season. They’ll hardly be fazed by the atmosphere of Kelly’s first game, and a win could mean a huge start with Western Illinois, Ball State, and Toledo to follow. Why Purdue Might Win: Will the Notre Dame secondary be better? The Purdue passing game should be potent once again led by Keith Smith, arguably the Big Ten’s best receiver, and the Irish need to come up with something special after a disappointing 2009. It’s not like Kelly’s teams have been rocks against the pass over the last few years, giving up 230 yards per game last season, and it’ll be bombs away for a Boilermaker attack that should come out firing. Defensively, the pass rush from Ryan Kerrigan and the front four should provide steady pressure on Dayne Crist for most of the afternoon, while the linebacking corps is strong enough to keep the Irish running game to a minimum. The Boilermaker front seven is set up nicely to slow down the quick, up-tempo passing game that Kelly will employ.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: Yeah, Purdue should put up some huge numbers on the Irish secondary, but if Crist can get time, he might go ballistic. The Boilermaker secondary is the team’s biggest weakness by far, at least when it comes to veterans and proven production. There’s plenty of young talent and a slew of great athletes, but they’re going to be under fire from the start against Michael Floyd and a receiving corps that will still be devastating even though Golden Tate is now playing up in Seattle. Crist subbed in for a banged up Jimmy Clausen last year and completed 5-of-10 passes for 45 yards, but he should have far more success this year.
What To Watch Out For: There was a time when Robert Marve was expected to be the next big thing in Miami football. A superstar recruit, he struggled both on and off the field, never fit in, and didn’t leave on the best of terms. Now the Purdue starter is fired up, motivated, and looking to be the player everyone thought he’d be a few seasons ago, and he could be the storyline in a game that’s all about Notre Dame. The 6-1, 210-pound junior is thick, tough, and a dual-threat playmaker who’s past a torn ACL and should do a little of everything for the Boilermaker attack.
What Will Happen: There will be a LOT to talk about no matter what happens. This should be a wildly entertaining shootout with Kelly’s offense showing enough glimpses of greatness to get everyone fired up. Just as it looks like the Irish will be in for a cruise-control type of day, Purdue will come roaring back to make everyone sweat. Kelly will get his first win, Purdue will look great in a loss, and then the focus will be all on the arrival of Michigan into South Bend for another spotlight battle.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 34 … Purdue 30 … Line: Notre Dame -10.5
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 4.5
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Northwestern (0-0) at Vanderbilt (0-0) Sept. 4, 7:30, ESPN3.com

Here’s The Deal … It’s not exactly Penn State vs. Alabama, but there’s always a lot of chest-thumping and a ton of discussion whenever the SEC and the Big Ten play each other. It might be on the road and Northwestern has several things to work on, but this is a must win for Pat Fitzgerald’s program and the conference considering Vandy is the SEC’s weakest team by far. The Commodores, coming off a 2-10 season, not only have to come up with some semblance of an offense and get even more out of its defense, but they also have to do it without Bobby Johnson, the head coach that brought the program a little bit of success. Robbie Caldwell is being thrown into the fire against a team that went to the Outback Bowl last year and pushed Auburn in an overtime thriller. With LSU coming up next week and a date at Ole Miss to follow, things don’t get much easier for the Commodores after this week. The Wildcats, on the other hand, get to take it easy for the first half of the season with Illinois State, Rice, and Central Michigan up next. It’s not crazy to think that a win in Nashville for NU might mean a 6-0 start.
Why Northwestern Might Win: There’s still a question of whether or not Vandy can actually move the ball. The offense finished 110th in the nation in years and 113th in scoring, and now it could be without its best player, RB Warren Norman, who missed practice time with a knee injury. The defensive front seven, especially the linebacking corps, should be the strength of the Wildcats, and it’ll take a big day from the Vandy passing game to hang around. That’s not likely to happen with the good NU front four likely to generate just enough pressure to force several big mistakes.
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: If the Vanderbilt defense can keep the Wildcat passing game under wraps, this will be close. New NU QB Dan Persa has a ton of talent, and he has the offensive front to give him time, but he’s new as the full-time starter and he’ll have to deal with a secondary with enough talent to give everyone in the SEC problems. The Commodores finished ninth in the nation against the pass and picked off 12 passes, and while a lot of the positive stats came because offenses chose to run the ball on the porous front seven, the secondary really was fine and now three starters are back.
What To Watch Out For: Mike Kafka went from being a question mark to a bomber who finished 12th in the nation in total offense. The former NU QB got drafted by Philadelphia, and now the question is whether or not Persa can handle the work. The only knock on him coming out of high school was his height, generously listed at 6-1. While the junior isn’t a top-shelf, Kafka-like passer, he was the first player in Pennsylvania high school history to run for over 1,000 yards and throw for over 2,000 in the same season. If he’s great, Northwestern could become a major player in the Big Ten race.
What Will Happen: It’s not going to be a thing of offensive beauty with at least five turnovers and too many three and outs. Vanderbilt has to be +2 to have any shot, but the offense still won’t do enough to overcome the Wildcat attack that will sputter and cough enough to have a hard time pulling away, but will come up with a few big plays in the second half to get the W.
CFN Prediction: Northwestern 20 … Vanderbilt 13 … Line: Northwestern -4
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … … 2.5
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Wisconsin (0-0) at UNLV (0-0) Sept. 4, 11:00 PM, Versus

Here’s The Deal … Will Wisconsin come out roaring or will Bobby Hauck’s debut at UNLV be a shocker? The Badgers have dreams of a Big Ten championship and a run at the BCS title with a loaded team returning from last season’s successful 10-3 season, but high expectations have never worked well in Madison especially when it comes to consistently playing up to the talent level. Almost every win last year was way too close when it didn’t need to be, and closing was always a problem until late in the regular season. For UNLV, the hope is that the arrival of Hauck and the hope that the program can finally become relevant. After years of mediocrity, it’s asking for too much to be fantastic right away, but a win over the Badgers would put Hauck and the Rebels on the map. At the very least, a good showing could mean that things have changed enough for UNLV that it’ll be a factor in the Mountain West.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: The Badger offensive line should obliterate the UNLV defensive front. The Badger front five might be the best in the Big Ten and is among the toughest in America, while the Rebel front line is huge, but should give up yards in big chunks. Size-wise, UNLV has some major beefeaters to theoretically stuff things up, but the Badger backfield has weapons to run inside and out while OT Gabe Carimi and the UW offensive front should take over the game by the second half.
Why UNLV Might Win: It’s Wisconsin, it’s early in the season, and it’s on the road. If the Badgers have everything working and are sharp, forget about it. However, in the opening game of the year, teams are rarely rock-solid in all phases and Wisconsin has never exactly been a dominant starter, even though it hasn’t lost a September non-conference game since a 23-5 home gack to the Rebels in 2003. Even at home over the last few years, UW has struggled early on getting pushed by NIU and Fresno State last season, and it’s been even harder once the team got on the road needing everything in the bag to beat Fresno State two years ago and struggling to get by UNLV in 2007. The Badgers don’t have much to go on film-wise considering the spread has been pushed aside for a more conventional attack, so there might be a few surprises for a relatively green Badger defensive front.
What To Watch Out For: Everyone knows Wisconsin will run the ball, and if things get tight, it’ll run the ball even more. The key to the season will be the further development of QB Scott Tolzien, one of the breakout stars of the 2009 Big Ten season. He has to show right away that last year wasn’t a fluke in any way, and he needs to take advantage of the likely lack of a pass rush to be on his game from the start. On the other side, Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen are still battling it out for the starting quarterback job, but Clausen has an ankle injury and Clayton is trying to become more of a passer in a new attack.
What Will Happen: The Badgers will struggle early to find its rhythm against a jacked up Rebel defense, and then the running game will start to kick in. Tolzien will hit on a few key third down passes in the second half, John Clay will take over on two straight drives, and the fourth quarter will be bench-emptying time after the UW O line imposes its will. However, it’ll be a fun first 45 minutes.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 34 … UNLV 16 … Line: Wisconsin -20
Must See Rating: Season Premiere: Keeping Up with the Kardashians 5 - Eat, Pray, Love 1 … 2
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- Week 1, Part 1