Big Ten picks: Week 2
September, 10, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
My forecast of Big Ten perfection in Week 1 came up a little short, thanks to a miserable performance by Illinois. Still, 10-1 isn't bad, but things will get much tougher for myself and the league this Saturday. Big Ten players and coaches agree that big nonconference victories are the only way to repair the league's national reputation, and Week 2 will go a long way toward helping or hurting the conference.
How will things shake out? Not so good for the Big Ten.
Michigan State 37, Central Michigan 17: Central Michigan is one of those non-BCS programs that looks like it should beat the big boys. But the Chippewas rarely come through, with last week's game at Arizona serving as the latest example. Dan LeFevour makes a few more plays against the Spartans, but Michigan State has too much talent on both sides of the ball. The Spartans will get a little more clarity at quarterback, though I'm not sure who separates himself.
Western Michigan 31, Indiana 27 -- Until the Hoosiers establish a consistent rushing attack and get tougher in the secondary, they're not going to win many games. Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller bounces back from a subpar performance against Michigan and tosses three touchdown passes in Memorial Stadium. IU's Ben Chappell has another nice game but the Broncos score late to secure a road win.
Northwestern 38, Eastern Michigan 9 -- For the second straight week, the Wildcats should have little trouble on their home field. Eastern Michigan comes off a 13-point home loss to Army and faces a Northwestern defense that coach Pat Fitzgerald really challenged this week. NU quarterback Mike Kafka continues to build confidence and some separation occurs in the running back group, with either Stephen Simmons or Arby Fields emerging as the top man.
Penn State 41, Syracuse 10 -- Greg Paulus looked impressive in Syracuse's opener, but reality strikes for the former Duke point guard at Beaver Stadium. Penn State's defensive front takes no mercy, with or without Navorro Bowman, and Paulus should be in for a long afternoon. Nittany Lions quarterback Daryll Clark delivers another gem and running back Evan Royster eclipses 100 rush yards as Penn State rolls again.
Wisconsin 28, Fresno State 24 -- Pat Hill's team won't be intimidated at Camp Randall Stadium and could very well pull the upset Saturday. Wisconsin gets a big performance from running back John Clay, while Scott Tolzien maintains his steadiness at quarterback. The flu bug that swept through Wisconsin's team earlier this week doesn't figure to keep many key players off the field. The Badgers escape this one, but just barely.
Iowa 23, Iowa State 17 -- It won't be easy for the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. Then again, it never is. Iowa State jumps ahead early before Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi and tight end Tony Moeaki bring their team back with a pair of touchdown connections. Redshirt freshman Adam Robinson capitalizes on his opportunity at running back and scores the decisive touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Iowa wins in Ames for just the second time since 1997.
Notre Dame 30, Michigan 27 -- Easily the toughest game to pick this week, and one that could go either way. Michigan will win if its defensive line consistently pressures Jimmy Clausen, but it'll be tough for the Wolverines' secondary to contain Notre Dame's offensive weapons for 60 minutes. Clausen starts slow before picking things up in the second half, while Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson make a few more mistakes in a narrow defeat.
Minnesota 27, Air Force 24 -- The first game at TCF Bank Stadium will be a memorable one, as Minnesota and Air Force pace one another for four quarters. Air Force's offense will test Minnesota's discipline on defense, and the Gophers need to find more options on offense besides star wide receiver Eric Decker. In the end, Minnesota's run game wears down the Falcons as Duane Bennett rushes for two touchdowns in an exciting victory.
Illinois 44, Illinois State 10 -- Arrelious Benn should be back on the field, which means better things for the Illinois offense. Illinois State will be without its starting quarterback, and Illini linebackers Ian Thomas and Martez Wilson take advantage. Illinois gets well against an overmatched and wounded opponent before beginning a brutal stretch to Big Ten play in two weeks.
USC 30, Ohio State 23 -- It won't be another debacle for the Buckeyes, but I can't see them winning this game without major improvement on both sides of the ball. And really, when was the last time Ohio State hit on all cylinders against a top 15 team? Was it 2006? Terrelle Pryor delivers a strong performance, but USC wins the battle at the line of scrimmage more often than not, and its stable of running backs takes advantage. Matt Barkley isn't a huge factor but makes enough plays to win.
Oregon 38, Purdue 31 -- I really want to pick Purdue here because Oregon could be on the brink of self-destruction, but I'm just not sold on the Boilers' defense after the Toledo game. Open-field tackling means everything against the spread offense, and even without LeGarrette Blount, Oregon's attack will be better. Could see the Ducks in a blowout; could see the Boilers in an upset. Oregon ends up winning a fairly tight contest, though Ralph Bolden has another big game for Purdue.
Season record: 10-1 (.909)