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September 29th, 2017- Posted 10/2

Favored Spartans brace for testy Iowa;

Lions hope to prove Atlanta loss was fluke

 

By KEITH GAVE

Sports Director

 

While Michigan takes the weekend off to rest up and get healthy for its first big rivalry game of the season, the two other A-list teams in the state face tough opponents as both get into the crucial part of their schedule.

 

Michigan State opens its Big Ten season when Iowa visits on Saturday. And the Detroit Lions play their first game against a division opponent, traveling to Minnesota to face a longtime rival on Sunday.

 

The envelope, please:

 

Michigan State (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. Iowa, 3-1, 0-1)

Saturday, 4 p.m.

Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/Radio: FOX, WJR-AM (760)

Line: Michigan State minus 3.5

 

What do the odds-makers know that we don’t know? I ask because this line makes no sense at all. Iowa nearly pulled off a monumental upset last week against visiting No. 4 Penn State. Meantime, after season-opening wins against a couple of MAC teams, the Spartans showed they were hardly ready for prime time with a lackluster 38-18 loss at home to Notre Dame, which used the win to pull into the AP’s college football poll at No. 22.

 

This is a young Michigan State team with a lot of growing to do before the Spartans can compete again with the big programs like they did just a few years ago. But sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke showed some moxie by leading his team down the field for a touchdown on the possession following a pick-six in MSU’s opening drive. The Hawkeyes have given up a lot of yardage to lesser opponents, so expect Lewerke and his young corps of receivers to stretch the field and put up some points. They’ll have to if the Spartans’ running game – thought to be their calling card at the start of the season – continues to disappoint.

 

Iowa may score at will against the inexperienced Michigan State defense. Quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown for 12 touchdowns against just one interception. Running back Akrum Wadley is averaging 85 yards a game, opening the field for the Hawkeyes’ passing attack.

 

Pay no attention to those who set the betting lines. Like Notre Dame, though perhaps not quite as dominating, Iowa should have its way against the Spartans.

 

Prediction: Iowa 27, Michigan State 20

 

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Detroit Lions (2-1) vs. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV/Radio: CBS, WQON-FM (101.1)

Line: Minnesota minus 1.5

 

We can take a lesson from the Lions after how they got screwed by another officiating crew in the closing seconds of their 30-26 loss to Atlanta. Not an ounce of whining or bitching. Game’s over. Deal with it. Move on.

 

I’m betting they take that attitude into Minnesota and show us all that what has transpired over three impressive outings is no fluke. And speaking of betting, the odds-makers had a difficult time with the line on this game because they didn’t know who would start at quarterback for the Vikings, Sam Bradford or Case Keenum. The Vikings announced Friday that Bradford, nursing a swollen knee, is out. Keenum will start. Now the only question is, which Keenum will show up?

 

If he performs like he did in Sunday’s surprise win over a Tampa Bay club that a lot of people liked at the start of the season, then the Lions will have their hands full. If you like Detroit’s chances better with Jarrad Davis returning to the lineup after missing the Atlanta game because of a concussion, here’s some good news: Davis was back on the practice field on Wednesday, though he remains questionable for Sunday.

 

Same with center Travis Swanson, whose presence if he returns will help solidify a Lions offensive line that will be challenged by one of the better defenses in the NFL.

 

It’s early, but this game between old rivals will go a long way toward establishing a hierarchy in the NFC North. And it should be one of the better games on the NFL’s Sunday schedule.

 

Expect another good show by the Lions.

 

Prediction: Lions 23, Minnesota 20

 

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