The 17th ranked Michigan Wolverines and the 21st ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers begin their 2020 campaigns Saturday at 7:30 pm EST at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Wolverines have won eight of their last nine meetings versus the Golden Gophers, including picking up a 33-10 home win in last year's contest while covering the number as 16.5 point favorites. In all, Michigan has not only been successful against the spread in seven of their last nine versus their conference foe, but have excelled on the road versus the Golden Gophers as well in going 3-1 ATS in their last four games in Minneapolis.
Nonetheless, the Golden Gophers were able to give the Wolverines a much more physical matchup in their last visit to Minneapolis in 2015 when they fell by only three points, yet covering the spread as 10.5-point favorites. Currently, Michigan is favored by three points for the contest while the total stands at 55 points.
Wolverines seek to pick up the pieces on both sides of the ballWith Shea Patterson leaving, the offense for the Wolverines will have to rely on Joe Milton to fill the void under center. McNamara is a junior with no experience at all while Milton is 6'5" tall and will be the top guy in line for the starting QB position as he finished 2019 with a touchdown along with a pic while completing just 43% of his passes. Receivers Donovan-Peoples Jones (NFL) along with Tarik Black (transfer to Texas) will not be back for Michigan either while Nico Collins opted out of the 2020 season altogether. Of course, this leaves a new crop of receivers available to step in and make an impact.
It’s time to GO! 😤 pic.twitter.com/btlo3n34cx— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) October 20, 2020
Receiver Ronnie Bell (44 rec, 708 yds, TD) returns for the Wolverines, however, while the team is hoping that newcoming freshman A.J. Henning will also play a key role in the passing attack in 2020. Michigan's rushing attack will include their three-headed monster in sophomore Zach Charbonnet (136 att, 672 yds, 11 TD's), junior Hassan Haskins (103 att, 582 yds, 4 TD's), and senior Chris Evans (74 att, 545 yds, 4 TD's). Important to note that the Wolverines posted 150 yards per game on the ground in 2019. However, four of their five offensive lineman must be replaced, which means that Michigan may indeed struggle with consistency early on in 2020.
Michigan lost much on the defensive side of the football as well with Khaleke Hudson, Jordan Glasgow, as well as Josh Uche all leaving. However, linebacker Cameron McGrone (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks) will be returning for Michigan while senior defensive lineman Carlo Kemp (15 tackles, 2 sacks) along with Christopher Hinton are each expected to do great things in the trenches. Furthermore, with two bookends in junior Aidan Hutchinson (34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 ff) and senior Kwity Paye (26 tackles, 6.5 sacks), and the Wolverines certainly have a corps of players that can improve from their stellar defensive rankings in 2019.
Golden Gophers seek to improve from 11-win seasonAnd while coach P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers lost some pieces to their squad in the offseason, they continue to possess one of the most talented QB's in the nation in Tanner Morgan, who passed for a total of just under 3000 yards while posting 28 touchdowns alongside six picks while completing 66% of his passes in 2019. He will also have his favorite target in uniform for this contest in Rashod Bateman (1170 yds, 11 TD's) for a passing attack that averaged 250 yards passing per contest.
Also, expect the rushing attack to be equally as potent despite the loss of Rodney Smith with seniors Mohamed Ibrahim (94 att, 477 yds, 6 TD's) and Shannon Brooks (73 att, 408 yds, 2 TD's) running the show in the backfield. Important to note that the offensive line for the Gophers will also be talented and experienced as they return all of their lineman from last year's squad that racked up 175 yards per game in 2019. Nonetheless, despite their rushing prowess last season, the Wolverines held the Golden Gophers to just 90 yards in their destroying of Minnesota at home in a 33-10 shellacking.
almost there pic.twitter.com/owKWWJ1PZv— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) October 21, 2020
Minnesota was not a bad defensive team last year in allowing just 22 points per game while giving up just 185 yards in the air along with 125 yards on the ground to opponents. However, Michigan was able to accumulate a ridiculous 371 yards on the ground last season versus the Golden Gophers. They must certainly rule the line of scrimmage in this contest as one will expect the Wolverines to establish themselves on the ground first and foremost to better incorporate their inexperience at the QB position.
The defense will certainly be young an inexperienced after a number of players graduated or left for the NFL; However, the Golden Gophers will depend heavily on linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin (17 tackles) along with defensive ends Boye Mafe (7 tackles, 2 sacks) along with Esezi Otomewo (6 tackles, 2.5 sacks) to step up after having considerable playing time last season. Seniors in Benjamin St. Juste (31 tackles) along with Coney Durr (15 tackles, INT) were aggressive in the secondary for the Golden Gophers last season and is expected to make much more of an impact in 2020 while junior Jordan Howden (38 tackles) along with sophomore Tyler Nubin will attempt to make up for the huge loss of Antoine Wingfield, Jr..
Stats & Trends
- Wolverines are 1-2 ATS in last 3 meetings versus Golden Gophers
- Golden Gophers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in October.
- Golden Gophers are 4-1 ATS in last 5 home Big Ten contests
- Golden Gophers are 8-2 ATS in last 10 games
While I want to go with the Wolverines and the points in this matchup, one cannot overlook the fact that the Michigan offense will be completely revamped when they take the field for this contest. The Golden Gophers have been excellent against the number at home versus Big Ten opponents as of late, and with the expectations put upon the team after a stellar 2019 season will certainly bring an added sense of focus and intensity to this matchup on both sides of the ball.
Minnesota has covered the spread in two of the last three games versus the Wolverines. With that being the case, on the strength of the Golden Gophers having the more consistent offense with more playmakers, I look for the home team to shine when all is said and done as they not only keep this game close, but, may even pull out the outright victory in this contest.