I usually start my Thursday column by looking ahead to the weekend.
This week, I can’t.
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Forgive me, but I have to start with what happened on Monday night with the Lions at Lambeau Field. Yes, it still hurts, but let’s put things into perspective. I’ve told many people over the years that you should never put the game in the referees hands. They are human and they are going to make mistakes.
That was quite evident on Monday night. The Lions were flagged for four phantom penalties by my count. The most egregious of which was when the Lions were leading 22-13. Detroit sacked Aaron Rodgers on a third-and-10 play early in the fourth quarter, but Lions defensive end Trey Flowers was called for a hands to the face penalty on the play, wiping out the sack. Three plays later, Rodgers connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard to set the stage for an epic comeback at Lambeau Field. That play was the first of two controversial hands-to-the-face penalties called against Flowers in the fourth quarter, both of which led to Green Bay points. Bad calls yes, but were they the reason the Lions lost? No.
The Lions settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, not once but five times. So, let’s drop the narrative the referees cost the Lions a win. Take care of business and don’t allow the referees to dictate the outcome of a game.
Okay, now that I got that off my chest: Hey Michigan Man, how you feeling heading into Saturday’s game under the lights in Happy Valley against Penn State? The 16th-ranked Wolverines visit Happy Valley with a 5-1 record, seeking their first road win over a top-10 foe since 2006 (at No. 2 Notre Dame). Michigan has won three straight since getting thumped at Wisconsin in September, but their offense continues to battle through periods of inconsistency. The Wolverines scored 52 points against Rutgers, but only managed a single touchdown drive in a victory over Iowa and found success through the air in last weekend’s surprisingly tough win over Illinois. Michigan will have to be at their best to win on Saturday night.
That said, I don’t see it happening. Harbaugh is 1-9 vs. Top 10 teams since he took over as the Wolverines coach. They have not shown me enough offense to think they could win in a hostile environment like they will face on Saturday night. If they lose to Penn State they are done, especially when they have Notre Dame next week and that team to the South to end the season. If Michigan losses on Saturday night, and then next week against Notre Dame and to Ohio State, I can only imagine the heat on Harbaugh.
Let us not forget it’s still baseball season. The Washington Nationals made quick work of the St. Louis Cardinals and will represent the National League in the World Series. Anybody notice how good that Nationals pitching staff has been? Yes Tigers fans, it hurts, but Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer both took no-hitters into the late innings against the Cardinals. Throw in Stephen Strasburg and this Nationals team is formidable. I would be extremely weary of this Nationals team if I was either the Yankees or Astros, who will represent the American League in the Fall Classic.