September 8th, 2017-Posted 9/11
Will home-field be an advantage
for Wolverines, Spartans, and Lions
By KEITH GAVE
It’ll be a busy weekend of football with Michigan and Michigan State continuing their seasons against allegedly outmanned opponents, while the Detroit Lions open their schedule with high hopes against an always ornery Arizona Cardinals club at Ford Field.
What to expect? A little bit of everything, as usual, but escaping the weekend with a hat trick of victories is going to be tough.
The envelope, please.
No. 8 Michigan Wolverines (1-0) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0)
At Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
TV/Radio: ABC, Q-100.3
Line: Michigan by 34 ½
Lay the points and take the Wolverines. This will be little more than a controlled scrimmage for Jim Harbaugh and his team.
The young Michigan defense showed not an iota of a drop-off after losing all those players to the NFL after last season. In fact, the way defenders were flying around against Florida last week in a rather workmanlike victory over Florida, all indications are this defense could be even better. As good as that 1997 team that won a national championship under coach Lloyd Carr and first-year defensive coordinator Jim Hermann? That’s a stretch. But it’s clear Harbaugh has recruited some great athletes on that side of the ball.
On the offensive side, look for Wilton Speight to get a good half under his belt, continue to build his confidence after last week’s two pick-sixes, and turn the offense over to John O’Korn. If that first half against Florida showed us – and Harbaugh – anything, it’s that the Wolverines may need to call on a capable backup. O’Korn needs the work.
Prediction: Michigan 44, Cincinnati 3
Michigan State (1-0) vs. Western Michigan (0-1)
3:30 p.m. Saturday
At Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV/Radio: BTN, BTN2
Line: Michigan State by 7
Beware not to read too much into Western’s impressive effort in last week’s 49-31 loss at No. 6 Southern Cal. Same goes for Michigan’s rather easy 35-10 win over Bowling Green.
Sure, the Broncos are another MAC team, but even without their departed coach, P.J. Fleck, and their deadly passing tandem, Western Michigan will be a formidable opponent for this rebuilding Spartans team. Think back just two years ago, when the Broncos gave State everything it can handle in a season that ended with the Spartans in the Bowl Championship Series.
The scored for both teams last week are deceiving. One WMU touchdown came on a trick play, with its quarterback catching a scoring pass. Another came on a kickoff return. Michigan State’s vaunted running attack was stymied by a marginal defense. With workhorse L.J. Scott putting the ball on the ground twice and getting stopped repeatedly, quarterback Brian Lewerke was the team’s leading rusher with 69 yards.
If that happens again Saturday, they’ll be dancing in Kalamazoo.
Prediction: Western Michigan 24, Michigan State 23
Arizona Cardinals (0-0) vs. Detroit Lions (0-0)
1 p.m. Sunday
At Ford Field, Detroit
TV/Radio: FOX, Q100.3
Line: Arizona minus-2
The last time Matthew Stafford lined up against Arizona, he threw three interceptions in a 43-17 home loss – and got benched. Stafford enters Sunday as the man with the richest contract in NFL history – and he can’t let that happen again.
One true thing about the NFL is that every week is Armageddon. The Lions’ schedule through the first half is brutal. If they can go 4-4, they’ll have a good shot at making the playoffs. Which makes this, as silly as it sounds, almost a must-win game for them.
The Cardinals have won their last seven games against the Lions, and invade Ford Field with one of the best defenses in football. Last season, they allowed the second fewest yards and topped the NFL with 48 sacks. They will put enormous pressure on a makeshift offensive line missing left tackle Taylor Decker, out through at least October with a shoulder injury.
On the other side, the Lions will have to find ways to mount pressure on a 37-year-old quarterback, Carson Palmer, who can still throw the ball – thanks to one of the best receivers in the history of the game, Larry Fitzgerald. And Detroit will have to do it with a defensive line missing its sack leader last season, Kerry Hyder. That will make it easier to double-team Ziggy Ansah, who hasn’t played a down in the preseason after just coming off the injured list with a high ankle sprain that hampered him all last season.
The smart money says to take the home-dog Lions. I guess I’m not that smart.
Prediction: Arizona 31, Detroit 27