Iowa, Big 10 Predictions from CFN.com

CollegeFootballNews.com is now a part of the Scout.com Network, and they provide a weekly set of predictions for every team in the Big Ten Conference. The Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Illinois Fighting Illini this week in Champaign, and not many are expecting this to be much of a contest, including CFN.com

How'd we do so far? 28-5 straight up, 14-11-1 ATS

Big Ten Game of the Week

Penn State (2-1) at Ohio State (3-0) 3:30 pm EST ABC  Saturday, Sept. 22
Why to watch: There were better games in 2005 than Penn State's 17-10 win over Ohio State, but there weren't any with more big hits and there weren't any better defensive slugfests. Players on each team said all off-season that they didn't obsess about this game or the other team, but the rematch was clearly one that made their skin tingle a little bit. The number one ranked Buckeyes have an interesting start to its Big Ten season with this game followed up by a beartrap of a date at Iowa next week. With the way Penn State is playing, if Buckeyes really are the nation's best team, this is a game they must dominate. The Nittany Lions were fine in wins over Akron and Youngstown State, but nothing special. The defense isn't close to being the killer of the past few seasons, and there's not enough precision to an offense who's running game isn't nearly as effective as the stats might indicate. However, this could be the big turnaround moment for their season. A win in Columbus would erase all memories of the blowout loss at Notre Dame, and would set the table for a strong run at the Big Ten title with the toughest game left on the slate, Michigan, at home.
Why Penn State might win: The Nittany Lion defense might not be the best in the nation, but it's still plenty good. The linebacking corps is still amazing, the defensive line is doing a fantastic job of getting into the backfield, and secondary, while young and making several mistakes, has the potential to grow into something special by the end of the year. Texas was able to come up with three sacks of Troy Smith, but there wasn't nearly enough consistent pressure throughout the game. If the front four can be disruptive, Penn State has a great shot of sticking around for four quarters. However ...
Why Ohio State might win: ... Penn State needed to get pressure on Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, didn't, and got torched. The corners might have talent, but they're still prone to getting burned by veteran receivers. No receiving tandem is playing more effectively at the moment than Ohio State's combo of Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, who each ranks in the top 25 in the nation in receiving yards. The Buckeye offensive line has been dominant over the first three games. What was an advantage last year (the Penn State D line over the Ohio State O line) is now an advantage the other way.
Who to watch: To beat the Buckeyes, Penn State has to match big pass play for big pass play. Anthony Morelli has the big arm, and he has the receivers to hit a few home runs with. Now he needs to be more consistent after completing a mere 11 of 27 passes in an uninspiring performance against Youngstown State. He has only thrown one touchdown pass over the last two games, and he hasn't done nearly enough to get the ball to Derrick Williams. The super-soph has more carries (15) than catches (7) and hasn't had a breakout game yet. If he can somehow be the statistical equal of Ted Ginn as a receiver and a kick returner, Penn State will have a shot.
What will happen: Penn State is zero for six at Ohio State since joining the Big Ten hasn't won there since 1978. The streak will continue even though it'll be a tight game after three quarters.
CFN Prediction
: Ohio State 26 ... Penn State 13
... Line: Ohio State -16.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ... 4  

Northwestern (2-1) at Nevada (1-2) 8 pm EST ESPN2 Friday, Sept. 22
Why to Watch: The Wolf Pack put one in the win column last week with a solid 28–10 victory over previously undefeated Colorado State, while Northwestern rebounded from a loss to D-IAA New Hampshire with a less-than-scintillating 14-6 victory over Eastern Michigan.  With both teams having gained some confidence, each one should come into the game in Reno mentally and physically prepared to win a key non-conference game to bolster bowl game hopes.  Northwestern needs this to prove that the first year of the Pat Fitzgerald era is headed in the right direction, while Nevada needs a little bit of national attention. The college football world will be watching on Friday night, so each team has to perform in the spotlight.
Why Northwestern Might Win:  The Northwestern defense shut down Eastern Michigan's spread attack, holding it to 47 yards passing and 87 yards on the ground. Nevada's "Pistol" offense isn't the spread, but it has a lot of similar traits.  The Wildcats are ranked 16th in the nation in total defense thanks mostly to playing well against the run. If NU can stuff the Pack on the ground, it should stay in the game, unless ...
Why Nevada Might Win:  Last week, Nevada QB Jeff Rowe played like the star he's supposed to be completing 19 of 22 for 210 yards while running 13 times for 65 yards.  Northwestern will face a number of dual threat QBs in the Big Ten this season, but to this point, it hasn't seen a passer like Rowe. Its untested secondary will come under fire in a big way.
Who to Watch:  Northwestern CB Deante Battle and Marquice Cole have to be rock stars.  Battle picked up an interception and two other PBUs in the win over EMU, while Cole is on the Thorpe award watch list.  Rowe will take advantage of aggressive corners, as he attempted to do against Fresno State's Marcus McCauley early in the game, so Battle and Cole have to be disciplined. Nevada's linebacking corps, led by Joshua Mauga and Ezra Butler, will have to slow down Northwestern's dynamic and versatile RB Tyrell Sutton to keep the Wildcat offense under wraps.
What Will Happen:  The Wolf Pack hasn't lost at home for six straight games and Rowe should lead the offense with a pass/run performance that should help make it seven in a row. Northwestern QBs Mike Kafka and Andrew Brewer aren't consistent enough to win a game like this.

CFN Prediction
:
Nevada 27 ... Northwestern 14 ... Line: Nevada -7.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Wisconsin (3-0) at Michigan (3-0) 12 pm EST ESPN  Saturday, Sept. 22
Why to watch: While this won't get anywhere near the hype or publicity of the Penn State - Ohio State game, it'll be more entertaining. The last five games between the two, going back to 1999, have been decided by seven points or fewer, with the Badgers winning a 23-20 classic in Madison last year that signaled the end of the two-year hiatus in this great matchup. The jury's still out on a Wisconsin team that went through the motions against Bowling Green, Western Illinois and San Diego State on the way to an easy 3-0 record. The defense has been terrific, but the offense hasn't set the world on fire. Michigan has gone from being an underground dark horse in the race for the BCS title to a top contender after the 47-21 destruction of Notre Dame. Will Lloyd Carr's crew suffer a letdown or will it take the momentum and run with it?
Why Wisconsin might win: While the offense doesn't have the firepower to keep pace with Chad Henne, Mike Hart and the boys, the Badger defense should be good enough to avoid the type of run that Michigan went on against Notre Dame. This is a no-name, hard-hitting group with, arguably, the best front seven in the Big Ten. If Wisconsin can avoid turnovers, capitalize on all mistakes, and continue winning the field position battle with its excellent punting and punt return games, it has a shot.
Why Michigan might win: Offensively, this is a horrible matchup for the Badgers. The offense has been all RB P.J. Hill so far, but Michigan has the nation's number one run defense highlighted by holding Notre Dame to 28 yards. The Wolverine defensive front is great at getting into the backfield with 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in the first three games, and that's not a plus for UW QB John Stocco. The senior has been shaky, at best, so far having a hard time getting in tune with his new receiving corps and not ever looking comfortable over the first three games. Under pressure, Stocco will make mistakes.
Who to watch: Wisconsin must dominate the field position battle to win, and that means junior punter Ken DeBauche has to continue to be terrific. With a 41.8 yard-per-kick average, DeBauche has been a steady, occasionally clutch weapon who has bailed the Badgers out of trouble several times so far. Zach Hampton is growing into the role as the main punt returner coming off an excellent day against San Diego State. His counterpart, Steve Breaston, finally started to break out against Notre Dame returning four punts for 64 yards. While he's been a bust over the the course of his career as a receiver, he leads the team with 12 grabs and has become a nice short to midrange target.
What will happen: Either Michigan comes down from its statement blowout over the Irish and slogs through a sloppy win, or it's razor sharp and brimming with confidence and wins by 24. Expect the Wolverines to win mainly because Wisconsin will have a nightmare of a time scoring.
CFN Prediction
: Michigan 23 ... Wisconsin 10
... Line: Michigan -14.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Iowa
(3-0) at Illinois (1-2) 12 pm EST GamePlan  Saturday, Sept. 22
Why to watch: Iowa survived an overtime scare and seven cracks from inside the two against Syracuse, and got past in-state arch-nemesis Iowa State to get to 3-0 for the first time in three years. With the epic showdown with Ohio State coming up next week, the Hawkeyes will look to get past a struggling Illinois team that's playing every bit like the young, inexperienced team it is. Iowa beat Syracuse at Syracuse 20-13, and then SU beat Illinois at Illinois 31-21 in a game that was much more of a beating than the final score might indicate. The Illini have scored just seven points before garbage time in the last few games and needs some sign of life in what's quickly becoming a disastrous season. An upset win in the Big Ten opener would do wonders.
Why Iowa might win: The Illinois offensive line is doing absolutely nothing. It got a decent push for the running game against Syracuse, but it's giving up way too many sacks and there's been no time whatsoever for the quarterbacks to operate on a consistent basis. Even though Iowa's defense isn't crushing and killing when it comes to getting to the quarterback, it has been solid with nine sacks in the first three games. The Hawkeye D line should dominate.
Why Illinois might win: It's not like the Iowa offense is humming. It's been productive when it's needed to be, and Drew Tate has done a great job of working with his new receivers to make some big plays, and the offense is cranking out 392 yards per game, but it hasn't shown off much explosiveness yet. This is the ultimate sandwich game for the Hawkeyes and they might have a big problem focusing on the task at hand and not mentally gameplanning for the Buckeyes.
Who to watch: And the Illinois quarterback is ...? Senior Tim Brasic has been the starter, and he hasn't been bad, but he hasn't done much to lead the offense and put points up on the board. Top recruit Juice Williams has been thrown into the fire early on and has shown off his big arm and poise that goes beyond his youth. Head coach Ron Zook doesn't want to put Williams out to get killed behind a porous line, but he wants to get his young star of the future as much work as possible. After completing two-of-ten throws against Rutgers, he hit nine of 16 passes against Syracuse with two long touchdown passes. Both will likely end up playing.
What will happen: It'll take at least a half for Iowa to get the job done, but it'll dominate late with the offense converting at least two key turnovers for backbreaking scores.
CFN Prediction
: Iowa 38 ... Illinois 16
... Line: Iowa -21.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Big Ten Week Four Fearless Predictions, Part 2
 

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