September 22nd, 2017
Moment of reckoning this weekend
for teams from Grayling to Detroit
By KEITH GAVE
Better late than never, summer has arrived at the same time the calendar says it’s autumn. Temperatures in the upper 80s don't make for ideal football weather, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting our local teams with the biggest followings.
After a 3-9 disappointment last year, starting the season 2-0 is a good way to win back Spartan fans. Never mind that Michigan State has built that record on the backs of two Mid-America Conference teams.
Michigan hasn’t looked particularly dominant in any of its first three victories, but for some reason the pollsters love the Wolverines, pegging them at No. 8 in the land.
And our lovable Lions have defied all expectations by winning their first two games – and already the bandwagon is getting crowded.
Oh, and the Grayling Vikings have been dominant, at times, in building a 4-0 record to start this Friday night lights campaign.
But one quick glance at the upcoming schedules for each of these teams, and it’s easy to conclude this is an early moment of reckoning for every one of them.
Dress lightly, drink plenty of water and buckle up for what should be an interesting weekend of football at every level.
The envelope, please:
Michigan State (2-0) vs. Notre Dame (2-1)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
At Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Line: Notre Dame minus 3.5
The young Michigan State defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season, but that will change against a Fighting Irish offense led by junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who is a load. He rushed for 207 yards and four touchdowns at Boston College last weekend. The Spartans should present their own set of challenges to the Notre Dame defense with an attack led by quarterback Brian Lewerke’s arm – and his legs. Both teams are deadly in the red zone. Michigan State is 7-8 scoring when it gets the ball inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Notre Dame has scored on all its red-zone trips.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Michigan State 27
No. 8 Michigan (3-0) vs. Purdue (2-1)
Saturday, 4 p.m.
At Ross-Aide Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana
TV/Radio: FOX, WQON, Q100.3-FM, Grayling
Line: Michigan minus-10
A 10-point spread seems like an awful lot, even for the No. 8 Wolverines against a team with a recent history like Purdue. The Boilermakers were supposed to be drastically improved on the offensive side of the ball with the first-year coach Jeff Brohm coming over from Western Kentucky, where his team averaged just under 45 points per game over three seasons. But it’s been Purdue’s defense that has been the more impressive – especially going to Columbia for a 35-3 “upset” of SEC delegate Missouri. If the Wolverines are to win this game, let alone cover, they’ll have to turn around their red-zone misadventures. They’ve scored just one touchdown in 10 trips inside their opponent’s 20.
Prediction: Michigan 23, Purdue 19
Detroit (2-0) vs. Atlanta (2-0)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
At Ford Field, Detroit
TV/Radio: FOX, WQON, Q100.3-FM, Grayling
Line: Atlanta minus-3
The Lions’ defense has pretty much had its way against two wildly inferior offensive lines trying to protect aging quarterbacks. A true test comes Sunday against one of the best offensive lines in the game – which probably has a lot to do with why the Falcons are one of the most prolific scoring teams in the NFL. They averaged nearly 34 points per game in representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in February – a game they should have won. The Lions are doing it with the offense, too, after coordinator Jim Bob Cooter spent the off-season studying how Atlanta scored all those points. Matthew Stafford, starting off like a bona fide MVP candidate, leads the NFL with six touchdown passes. This is one of the premier games on the league’s schedule this week and should tell us a lot about both teams – especially Detroit.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Detroit 23
Grayling (4-0) at Boyne City (4-0)
Two of Northern Michigan’s most dynamic offenses meet in a battle of titans tonight, with the winner getting an early foothold in a highly competitive conference race. Boyne scored 97 points in its first two games, but only 33 points in its next two, largely because of a couple of key injuries. Grayling has averaged more than 48 points a game. This has every indication of being a wild, high-scoring affair, and only a potentially dangerous heat index might slow these teams a bit.
Prediction: Grayling 45, Boyne City 42