After months of anticipation, Big Ten football is back.
An eight-game schedule for Big Ten teams gets underway in Week 8 of the 2020 College Football season. A strange start, sure, but an anticipatory one for University of Michigan fans.
Michigan sports betting players have to be intrigued by the matchup pitting No. 18 Michigan on the road to face No. 21 Minnesota this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC).
Michigan vs. Minnesota: Oddsmakers favor the Wolverines
Michigan is faced with a tough challenge to open its 2020 season, but oddsmakers think the Wolverines will come through.
|Michigan at Minnesota Week 8 odds||BetMGM||DraftKings||FanDuel||PointsBet||William Hill|
|Point spread||U-M -3.5 +100|
MINN +3.5 -121
|U-M -3.5 -103|
MINN +3.5 -118
|U-M -3.5 +104|
MINN +3.5 -128
|U-M -3 -115|
MINN +3 -115
|U-M -3 -115
MINN +3 +105
|Total points||O 55 -106|
U 55 -115
|O 54.5 -115|
U 54.5 -106
|O 54.5 -115|
U 54.5 -105
|O 55 -105|
U 55 -115
|O 55 -105
U 55 -115
Across the board, sportsbooks look at Michigan as a 3- to 3.5-point favorite on the road. The over/under is listed at 54.5 or 55 points with some varying lines based on the sportsbook.
When looking at the moneyline, Michigan is listed in the range of -150 to -162.
Michigan has dominated this series, holding a 75-25-3 record all-time against the Golden Gophers. The Wolverines have won the last two meetings. However, U-M is just 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 road games.
The over has been a strong play for Michigan sports bettors in this series. These two have hit the over in six straight encounters.
Minnesota has embraced the underdog role at the betting window as well, going 7-2 against the spread in their last nine as the underdog. The Gophers have also covered in five straight in October.
From a fan standpoint, the Michigan vs. Minnesota game will feature 800 fans with masks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. So the home-field advantage won’t be quite as strong. But how do the teams stack up?
Here is a look at three key factors in the Michigan vs. Minnesota game.
Minnesota battling COVID-19 issues
P.J. Fleck has changed the mindset of the Minnesota football program in his three years with the Gophers.
He is 23-15 in three seasons, including an 11-2 record in 2019 that included a share of the Big Ten West title. It was Minnesota’s highest win total since 1904, when it went 13-0.
However, Fleck and the Gophers are currently dealing with COVID-19 issues that will have a “number of players” out for Saturday’s game.
No details have been provided on just which players are out, but Fleck is stating his team won’t be at full strength come Saturday.
One player Fleck can’t be without is junior quarterback Tanner Morgan. Morgan is coming off a 30-touchdown season in 2019 where he threw for 3,253 yards with just seven interceptions.
Morgan led the Minnesota offense to 34.1 points per game last fall, which ranked third in the Big Ten.
The Gophers have challenges in replacing leading rusher Rodney Smith (1,163 yards, 8 TDs) and leading receiver Tyler Johnson (86 receptions, 1,318 yards, 13 TDs). But Rashod Bateman had 1,219 receiving yards in 2019 and caught 11 touchdowns.
He will be a top target for Morgan again.
Can Michigan QB Joe Milton handle the pressure?
The big question for Michigan heading into Saturday’s opener is at the quarterback position.
Jim Harbaugh hasn’t said on the record that Joe Milton will be his starter on Saturday, but all signs point in that direction.
Milton has been working with the first-team unit and is set to make his first start for Michigan.
The 6-foot-5 junior has thrown or 117 passes on 11 attempts in his brief appearances the last two season. Where Milton could be a factor is with his legs. He has 47 yards rushing over 12 attempts.
Michigan finished in the middle of the Big Ten offensively last season and could use a dual-threat option to open up the playbook.
Joined with Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins in the backfield, Michigan could be poised for a three-headed monster in the run game. The trio faces a Minnesota defense that allowed 127.9 yards per game on the ground in 2019.
In the passing game, Milton will look to rely on Ronnie Bell, who led Michigan with 48 catches for 758 yards in 2019. Nico Collins, who had 729 yards and seven receiving touchdowns last year, has opted to sit out the season and pursue the 2021 NFL Draft.
Which defense will reign supreme?
Both teams come in with high expectations for their offense, but both also have reliable defensive units.
Michigan was second in the Big Ten defensively in 2019, allowing just 292.8 yards per game. Their pass defense gave up just 173.8 yards per contest.
Minnesota wasn’t far behind, allowing 312.8 yards per game and only 184.9 passing yards per contest.
The Wolverines are in their fifth season with Don Brown at defensive coordinator, and he has produced great results outside of meetings with Ohio State. U-M brings the heat and creates turnovers. The Wolverines had 37 sacks and 20 turnovers in 2019.
Minnesota produced 14 interceptions last fall and a total of 19 turnovers. Their defensive front had 28 sacks, but putting pressure on Milton in his first start will be key for the Gophers.
In the Michigan vs. Minnesota game, they will want to rush Milton’s decision-making.