I called it the weekend of reckoning.
I set out to discover the fate of three teams and which way they were trending. Those three teams, the Lions, the Wolverines, and the Spartans answered most of my questions, but left me waiting for more.
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Let’s start with the Lions. Coming into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, the Lions were one of only seven undefeated teams. This was supposed to be a litmus test against a Chiefs team who many picked as a Super Bowl favorite. So, what did we learn? Yes, the Lions lost 34-30, but they went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the NFL. All they needed was a late defensive stop, but Patrick Mahomes showed why he’s the league’s best QB. He scrambling 15 yards on fourth-and eight for a first down and the Chiefs finished off the drive with a game-winning touchdown at 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Yes, it was a heartbreaking loss, but to me the Lions proved they can play with the best teams in the NFL. They went on the road and beat a good Eagles team, and for 59 minutes they battled a very talented Chiefs team. They showed plenty of grit on Sunday and have the look of a team that might be playoff caliber. The Lions have plenty of NFC games ahead of them and both Chicago and Green Bay will pose problems, but Matt Patricia has a battling team and I like to see that.
On the college football front I was very curious to see how the Michigan Wolverines would bounce back after getting taken to the woodshed by Wisconsin last week. Well, all is right in Ann Arbor, for a week at least. The Wolverines pounded Rutgers 52-0 at The Big House and showed that their offense might be getting untracked. They still had trouble running the ball, averaging only 3.4 yards per rush. Shea Patterson was quite efficient, completing 17-of-23 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. But, it was against a Rutgers offense ranked 106th in the country. For a day, all was right with the Wolverines. Things get tougher this week as 14th-ranked Iowa comes to Michigan Stadium. A win over a ranked Iowa team would go a long way in quieting the critics. But, with the meat of their schedule still to come, I need to see more before I buy the Wolverines being a Big Ten title contender.
I’m putting Michigan State in the same boat, as I haven’t seen enough from them to picture a title in their future. Yes, they pulled out a 40-31 victory over Indiana, but they needed a field goal with five seconds remaining to take the lead. Where was the vaunted Michigan State defense? Indiana torched MSU’s defense for 356 yards of offense. It’s the defense that carried MSU all season. It was good to see the offense get untracked against Indiana, but the defense will need to regroup for the Spartans on Saturday night. The Spartans are traveling to The Horseshoe in Columbus to take on the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, who just might be the best team in the country. It will prove a huge test for the Spartans, and we will see if they are pretenders or contenders.
Finally, the Tigers season mercifully ended on Sunday. They avoided duplicating their 2003 119-loss season, but they were not far off, finishing with a 47-114 record. The rebuild is going to take time. I reckon we are in for another long season in 2020 Tigers fans.