Big Ten Betting Guide: Odds, Picks & Predictions for Michigan vs. Minnesota, Maryland vs. Northwestern, More (Oct. 24)

Big Ten Betting Guide: Odds, Picks & Predictions for Michigan vs. Minnesota, Maryland vs. Northwestern, More (Oct. 24) article feature image
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David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tanner Morgan and Minnesota teammates.

The college football world seems to be getting more whole with each passing week. That’s especially true in Week 8.

With the Big Ten returning to play this week, four of the five Power Five conferences will have taken the field.

Ohio State will begin its quest for the College Football Playoff with an opening game against Nebraska, while Wisconsin will look to get back to the conference title game with a new-look offense.

Of course, there’s plenty of fun elsewhere, too. Teams like Penn State, Michigan, and Minnesota also have visions of playing in Lucas Oil Stadium ahead of bowl season.

On such a momentous day in college athletics, our staff broke down the best ways to bet each Saturday Big Ten game.


>> Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.


Big Ten Football Saturday Season-Opening Games in Week 8

  • 12:00 p.m. ET | Nebraska at (5) Ohio State
  • 12:00 p.m. ET | Rutgers at Michigan State
  • 3:30 p.m. ET | (8) Penn State at Indiana
  • 3:30 p.m. ET | Iowa at Purdue
  • 7:30 p.m. ET | (18) Michigan at (21) Minnesota
  • 7:30 p.m. ET | Maryland at Northwestern

All odds listed below are as of Thursday evening and via DraftKings. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.


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Steven Branscombe/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.

Collin Wilson: Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State

Nebraska Odds +26.5 [BET NOW]
Team Odds -26.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +950/-3335 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 68.5 [BET NOW]
Time 12 p.m. ET
TV FOX

Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Scott Frost era in Lincoln could be described as self-impeded. Nebraska had a chance to qualify for a bowl at 5-6 heading into the season finale against Iowa. Before the end of the first half, the Hawkeyes ran a kickoff back for a score and intercepted quarterback Adrian Martinez to bury those hopes. A 14-3 lead on Indiana evaporated after a fumble and missed field goal. An early-season overtime loss to Colorado was a result of fourth-quarter drives that ended with a fumble, fumble and interception.

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Nebraska finished 123rd in Havoc allowed, including an FBS low of 27 fumbles lost. If anyone believes that is one-year variance that will bounce back, consider that the Cornhuskers had 28 fumbles lost in 2018. Frost is now 9-14-1 against the number during his coaching tenure.

The defense has also had a rough go under Erik Chinander’s 3-4 concept that loves to blitz. Nebraska finished 85th in Line Yards and 125th in Power Success Rate last season, allowing any rushing attack with a pulse to move the ball.

For the amount of heat that Chinander likes to bring — blitzing at a 30% rate — there should be more than two players with double-digit quarterback hurries. Khalil Davis and Carlos Davis accumulated 12 sacks in 2019. Both of those players are in the NFL, leaving behind a remaining roster that combined for only 14 sacks last season.


Ohio State Buckeyes

Running back J.K. Dobbins has moved on to the NFL, but quarterback Justin Fields still has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Master Teague III averaged six yards per carry in 2019 and will be joined in the backfield by Oklahoma graduate transfer Trey Sermon.

The offensive line may be down two starters, but there were plenty of plays for the reserves last season. Nicholas Petit-Frere, Harry Miller and Gavin Cupp each recorded at least 170 snaps. There are weapons missing among the wide receiver corps, but Chris Olave’s 76 targets were one shy of K.J. Hill. We may see an increase in the usage of 12 personnel this season with the return of tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert, who combined for six touchdowns in 2019.

The defensive front garnered most of the headlines this offseason with the loss of Chase Young to the NFL. There are a number of players returning to the Buckeyes defense, but none held a statistical torch to Young. The defensive end finished the season with 16.5 sacks and 43 quarterback hurries.

Ohio State’s top returning starting pass-rusher is defensive end Tyreke Smith, who recorded just eight hurries in 2019. New defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs will be looking for players to generate chaos from the first snap.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Nebraska rushed for 184 yards at 4.7 per carry and still lost to the Buckeyes by 41 last season. The game had all the ingredients a gambler would come to expect with Nebraska — a 56-yard run from Martinez along with three interceptions. Throwing out drives that ended the half, Ohio State scored on 8-of-9 possessions.

The handicap in this game is about whether or not the new faces on the Buckeye defense can generate takeaways against a team that historically gives the ball away. With an Action Network projection of Ohio State -19, the current market is inflated for Ohio State backers. Anyone playing on the Cornhuskers will need the points with the assumption that Martinez is incapable of a clean box score.

The safest investment in this head-to-head is a slow-paced first half, as Fields has new faces on the outside and Frost opts to run the ball. Although Nebraska ran 54% pass out of 11 personnel last season, the Cornhuskers had 39 rushing attempts versus 17 passing plays against Ohio State. Bank on the team that takes care of the ball in the first half.

Pick: Ohio State First Half -14.5

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Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Davidovicz and Rutgers teammates.

Matt Wispe: Rutgers at Michigan State

Rutgers Odds +12 [BET NOW]
Michigan State Odds -12 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +400/-560 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 44.5 [BET NOW]
Time 12 p.m. ET
TV Big Ten Network

In the opening weekend of Big Ten play, Rutgers will travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State in a matchup of debuting head coaches.

Greg Schiano takes over a Rutgers team that has finished last in the Big Ten East for the past two seasons. Luckily for him, he’s already rebuilt a Rutgers team that was in a similar condition the last time he took over.

For Michigan State, Mel Tucker takes over for longtime coach Mark Dantonio after a 7-6 season. The situation around his debut doesn’t come in an ideal manner, though, as he was a late hire in a shortened season.

Neither of these teams had prolific offenses in 2019, and with each experiencing a tumultuous offseason, there’s no reason to believe that either offense will be a strength in Week 1. Even at a low number, the under is the play here.


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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Schiano will have a big job on his hands overhauling an offense that was among the worst in the country in 2019. Rutgers ranked second-worst in the country in points scored with 13.3 points per game with the second-worst success rate. Entering the year, they rank 19th-worst in overall SP+, ninth-worst in offensive SP+, and 53rd-worst in defensive SP+.

Returning starters may not be a positive for this team after finishing 0-9 in conference play, but the Scarlet Knights return 76% of their offensive production and 79% of their defensive production. They rank 62nd in the overall team talent composite.

Even after the release of the depth chart, there remains a big question mark at the quarterback position. Artur Sitkowski and Noah Vedral are listed as co-starters and neither will inspire confidence. Sitkowski is a former three-star prospect with five career touchdowns to 20 interceptions while averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt. Sitkowski played in 11 games as a freshman and just three as a sophomore. He represents the stable option.

Vedral is a former three-star prospect who is now on his third college team. He has just 90 career attempts with one career touchdown and one interception. But Vedral’s career 8.0 yards per attempt point to a player with some extra upside, but neither appears to be an instant threat to turn the offense into a well-oiled machine.

Rutgers returns just two starters from an offensive line that was relatively average, in 2019. It allowed Havoc on 20.2% of plays in 2019, including 76 tackles for loss.

Arguably the most interesting player on the depth chart is the co-starter at center, Brendan Bordner, who switches over from the defensive side of the ball. What represented one of the relative strengths for a bad offense, may be a major question mark in 2020.

Around the rest of the offense, the players most likely to make big impacts are Isaih Pacheco and Aron Cruickshank. Pacheco led the 2019 team in rushing, and Cruickshank joins Rutgers from Wisconsin after exclusively playing as a returner for the Badgers.

Defense appears to be the strength of this team. Schiano’s historical strength has been as a defensive-minded coach. His tenure at Ohio State may have ended poorly, ranking 72nd in yards allowed per game; but they ranked inside of the top 10 in his two prior seasons. He spent this offseason rebuilding the team with transfers and recruiting, and the transfers should play an important role on defense.

Most notable among the transfers are Brendon White, who played meaningful snaps for Ohio State in 2018, and Michael Dwumfour, who made 20 appearances for Michigan from 2016-19. Both White and Dwumfour are listed as starters in their team debuts.


Michigan State Spartans

After one season at Colorado, Tucker joins Michigan State as the first new head coach in East Lansing since 2007. Michigan State ranks 51st-best in SP+, 109th-best offensive SP+, and 14th-best defensive SP+. They return just nine starters from their 2019 team and those starters point to a team that will remain questionable on offense.

Four of the Spartans’ returning starters are along the offensive line. They allowed Havoc on 18.3% of plays in 2019, including 70 tackles for a loss. However, even with this strength, they ranked inside of the bottom 20 for Rushing Success Rate and Stuff Rate.

The only other returning offensive starter is running back Elijah Collins, who led the team in rushing as a redshirt freshman. As a whole, the Michigan State rushing attack struggled with a 36.2% Success Rate and 113th in rushing plays over 20 yards. As an individual, Collins ranked 22nd in rushing plays over 20 yards and 87th in rushes over 10 yards.

Defensively, the Spartans return four starters from a defense that allowed the 19th fewest yards per game and the 25th-fewest yards per play. Defense wasn’t the problem for this team. It ranked inside of the top 25 in Defensive Success Rate, Stuff Rate, and Havoc.

Arguably, the biggest question defensively is with the head coach who comes from a Colorado team that allowed more than 30 points per game. But if he leans on the strength of the roster construction in his first season, Michigan State will be a rock fight of a team that primarily wins in the low 20s.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The total on this game opened at 47.5 and has steadily dropped and betting options appear slightly limited. But that’s not scaring me away from the play.

The matchup of two bad offenses with strengths on the defensive side of the ball points to a game won in the teens and not the 20s. I’m taking the under at 44.5 and would play even lower.

Pick: Under 44.5 (Play down to 42.5)

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Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions football team.

Darin Gardner: No. 8 Penn State at Indiana

Penn State Odds -6 [BET NOW]
Indiana Odds +6 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -235/+165 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 62 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV FS1

As the Big Ten settles back into play, we get a matchup of two teams with high internal expectations as Penn State travels to Indiana on Saturday. Penn State is coming off a 2019 season where it finished 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl victory, while Indiana is coming off an 8-5 finish.

Indiana lost quarterback Peyton Ramsey to a transfer, but replacing him is Michael Penix Jr., who actually performed better than Ramsey in some metrics a season ago. The Nittany Lions have lost star receiver KJ Hamler to the NFL Draft, as well as a projected top-10 pick in linebacker Micah Parsons, who opted out of the season. More bad news came this week as projected starting running back Journey Brown may be lost for the season due to an injury.

Looking at team talent ratings, Penn State does have a significant advantage. The Nittany Lions rank 13th in the 247Sports team talent composite rankings, while Indiana ranks all the way down at 53rd.

Does Penn State have the talent to replace so many key departures?


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Indiana Hoosiers

In 2019, Indiana’s offense was able to successfully move the ball down the field but definitely lacked in the explosiveness department. The Hoosiers ranked 27th in Success Rate and 10th in Havoc allowed but ranked 118th in Explosive Drive rate.

The passing game was efficient. However, the ground attack couldn’t say the same. This could be a major problem against a Penn State defense that ranked first in the nation in yards per carry allowed last season. The Hoosiers finished 2019 ranked 98th in Line Yards, 110th in Stuff Rate, and 98th in yards per carry.

Additionally, they only return two starting offensive linemen. The offense as a whole ranked 42nd in Expected Points Added (EPA), 56th in yards per play, and 67th in Finishing Drives (points per trip past the opponent 40-yard line).

The offense was definitely the strength of the Indiana team in 2019. Defensively, the team struggled in many areas. The unit ranked 90th in EPA.

Remember how Indiana ranked 118th in Explosive Drive Rate on offense? Well, the defense ranked 119th in explosive drives allowed. The unit also ranked 69th in Success Rate, 60th in yards per pass attempt, 61st in Finishing Drives, and 93rd in Havoc.


Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State’s strength last season was the defense, but the offense impressed in some areas as well. Quarterback Sean Clifford ranked 19th in adjusted yards per attempt last season, as well as 28 total touchdowns and only seven interceptions in his first year as the starter.

Although it loses talented receiver KJ Hamler, Penn State returns four out of its five starters on the offensive line. The other projected starter was a rotational guard last season, so there’s plenty of experience in that unit.

The Nittany Lions ranked 24th in both Touchdown Rate and Explosive Drive Rate a season ago. Penn State also has a new offensive coordinator, as Kirk Ciarrocca comes over after leading a 2019 Minnesota offense that ranked sixth in EPA.

Additionally, the offense has one of the best weapons in the nation in tight end Pat Freiermuth, who is getting plenty of first-round buzz for the upcoming NFL Draft. Penn State was also able to finish drives very effectively last season, ranking 10th in that metric. Ciarrocca was the coordinator for a Minnesota offense that also excelled in that category, as it ranked 17th.

Penn State fielded one of the best defenses in the country in 2019, and there is plenty of reason for optimism for that unit in 2020. The Nittany Lions ranked 13th in EPA on that side of the ball, despite facing a schedule that included two matchups with Ohio State. Penn State’s defense also ranked ninth in Touchdown Rate, fourth in Explosive Drive Rate, and 14th in Finishing Drives.

The front seven excelled in particular, ranking ninth in line yards, 10th in Stuff rate, 25th in Sack Rate, and led the nation in yards per carry allowed.

One player who could explode this season is Jayson Oweh. According to the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the 6-5, 257-pound edge defender ran a 4.33 40-yard dash and vertical jumped 36 inches this offseason. As a reference to how mind-blowing that is, the reported time of 4.33 is faster than TY Hilton and DeSean Jackson.

He and teammate Shaka Toney both return with at least five sacks apiece last season and could cause a lot of problems for a mediocre Indiana offensive line.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Although Indiana went 5-4 in conference play last season, none of those five wins came against bowl-eligible teams. I like Penn State here and project its margin of victory at over nine.

The Nittany Lions should have a significant edge in the trenches against a weak Hoosier offensive line that only returns two starters. The overall talent gap in this game is massive.

I like Indiana’s season-long outlook, but there are several areas in which it just does not match up well against a very talented Penn State team. I would play this at anything under seven, which should not be hard to find.

Pick: Penn State -6

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Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Iowa Hawkeyes football team.

Collin Wilson: Iowa at Purdue

Iowa Odds -3 [BET NOW]
Purdue Odds +3 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -162/+125 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 52.5 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Big Ten Network

Iowa Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes will feature plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball in their return to play this weekend, following an unsettling offseason of roster turnover and program turmoil. A 25-point victory in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl kicked off the offseason on a positive note until an investigation unearthed racial bias within the program. As of this week, eight former players are suing the school for $20 million and want Kirk Ferentz to resign over racial discrimination.

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If the off-field distractions weren’t enough, Iowa must replace plenty of holes. Quarterback Nate Stanley departs an offense that returns 50% of its starters and ranked 45th in Success Rate last season. Spencer Petras takes over the reins under center with a promising pedigree but only a handful of snaps from 2019 to serve as experience. Ihmir Smith-Marsette returns at wide receiver after collecting 76 targets and five touchdowns last season.

Iowa finished last season ranked 108th in seconds per play with an offense that ran as much 12 and 21 personnel as 11. Offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs moves along to the NFL, but the Hawkeyes have six players that received at least 100 snaps in the trenches in 2019.

The defense ranked 35th in Success Rate last season and returns 56% of its production. AJ Epenesa has moved on to the NFL, leaving behind 11.5 sacks and 41 hurries. The defense still returns plenty in the front seven, with Chauncey Golston forcing 26 hurries and defensive back Jack Koerner being the top tackler last year.


Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue’s biggest offseason news was Rondale Moore opting back in to play for the Boilermakers. Limited in action due to injury in 2019, Moore became a household name in the college football world with an upset of Ohio State in 2018.

The standout wide receiver returns to a loaded roster with two quarterbacks that have each logged significant playing time. Both Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell had over 100 attempts in a season lost to injury up and down the roster.



With wide receiver David Bell also in the fold, Purdue has the returning production to be the most explosive passing attack in the Big Ten.

The Boilermakers also return 73% of their 2019 production on the defensive side of the ball. Edge rushers George Karlaftis and Derrick Barnes return, along with their combined 14 sacks and 60 hurries. The defense needs to improve, or Purdue may be a weekly over target. The Boilermakers ranked 115th in Success Rate against the rush, 107th in Havoc and 101st in Sack Rate.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The news of Jeff Brohm testing positive for COVID-19 is worth a minimum of two points to the spread. Other coaches have tested positive, and it has been an auto-move on the point spread. When a coach like Nick Saban is sidelined with COVID-19, it may not have the impact the market expects. Saban does not call plays on either side of the ball, but Brohm has called every play at every stop of his career. Offensive coordinator Brian Brohm is up for the challenge for the first time in his career.

The handicap relies on whether or not the Iowa secondary can contain two of the best receivers in the conference. The Hawkeyes will be without defensive backs Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone, who combined for 98 opponent targets last season. In 67 targets against Ojemudia, opponents scored just one touchdown and netted only 76 yards after catch.

A bet on Purdue is backing Brian Brohm’s play-calling to get the ball in the hands of Moore and Bell against a relatively inexperienced Iowa secondary.

Pick: Purdue +3

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines football team.

BJ Cunningham: No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota

Michigan Odds -3 [BET NOW]
Minnesota Odds +3 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -152/+123 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 54.5 [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ABC

Michigan and Minnesota renew their historic rivalry for the Little Brown Jug on Saturday night for the first time since 2017. These two football programs met for the first time in 1892, making this the oldest rivalry in college football. And, for the first time in a while, both teams come into the 2020 season with incredibly high expectations. So, it should be a fascinating game in Minneapolis on Saturday night.

The Wolverines get a fresh start heading into 2020, with a ton of young talent being thrust into starting roles. Quarterback Shea Patterson and much of the 2019 offense is gone. Now, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will be able to mold this offense to his system. On the defensive side of the ball, Dom Brown has a ton of talent and youth at his disposal. The Wolverines should be one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten this year.

PJ Fleck has delivered something that Minnesota fans haven’t had in a really long time: expectations. “Row the Boat” fell one game short of the Big Ten title game but polished off an 11-2 season with an Outback Bowl win over Auburn. Fleck must find a way to make up for the loss of a lot of talent at key positions if the Golden Gophers are going to be contenders in the Big Ten for the second straight year.


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Michigan Wolverines

Offense

With Patterson gone due to graduation and Dylan McCaffrey leaving via the transfer portal, Joe Milton will step into the role of starting quarterback on Saturday. The hype for Milton is off the charts right now with rave reviews about his ability as a dual-threat quarterback.

The junior was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, but he has taken some time to develop in Ann Arbor. Now, he’s projected to be the best Michigan quarterback since Denard Robinson. Milton has even drawn comparisons to Cam Newton — due to his 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound frame — from none other than Urban Meyer.

The problem for Milton is that receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black and Nico Collins are all gone. In fairness, Michigan still has some talent left at the wide receiver position with Ronnie Bell, who led the team in receptions last year. He also led the country with the highest average yards per catch (16.9) on routes from the slot position. The Wolverines also have one of the most electrifying players in college football in 5-foot-9 Giles Jackson.

The offensive line is going through a period of transition with four starters gone from last year. However, Michigan has plenty of talent to fill in those spots, so its line shouldn’t be an issue.

The biggest pieces returning to the Wolverines offense are their tandem running backs: Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet. The duo combined to rush for 5.0 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns in 2019. Gattis will likely lean on his run game a lot on Saturday night, as Minnesota’s weakness on defense is against the run.

Defense

Michigan only returns 49% of its production from 2019. But the Wolverines do get back three starters on the defensive line, which ranked 33rd in Rushing Success last season. They also have talented middle linebackers Cameron McGrone and Josh Ross coming. Those two should give Dom Brown some continuity in the center of his defense. The Wolverines were fantastic at forcing turnovers in 2019, ranking 20th in FBS in Havoc.

The Michigan secondary was no slouch either; the Wolverines defense ranked fourth in Defensive Passing Success last season. Michigan returns both of its starting safeties for 2020 but must break in a new group of corners. Most of Minnesota’s 2019 offensive success came through the air, so the Wolverines will have to slow down Tanner Morgan and company if they want to escape Minneapolis with a win.


Minnesota Golden Gophers

Offense

Minnesota’s offense must adjust to life without its star running back Rodney Smith and No. 1 target Tyler Johnson. Those losses are huge for the Gopher offense, which largely does not have the talent to replace the previous production of Johnson or Smith. However, the team received positive news earlier this month when NFL-caliber wide receiver Rashod Bateman decided to play for the Golden Gophers in 2020 after originally opting out in August.

Bateman’s return is a huge boost for Morgan, around whom the Gophers offense is centered. Morgan threw for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, which led Minnesota to top-five ranks in Passing Success and Passing Explosiveness. The Wolverines’ secondary was one of the best in the country last season and should be a challenging early-season test for Morgan, Bateman and the Gophers offense.

Minnesota also must deal with a change at offensive coordinator, as Kirk Ciarrocca is now at Penn State. Fleck brought in former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford as Ciarrocca’s replacement, so it will be interesting to see how Minnesota adapts to a new system.

Defense

Minnesota’s defense will undergo a complete overhaul in 2020. The Golden Gopher defense returns only 33% of its production from last year, including five of the team’s top six tacklers. The defensive line and linebacker units only return two total starters, so there are still plenty of holes left to fill. That will be a problem on Saturday night with Michigan’s high-powered rushing attack coming to town.

However, Minnesota’s biggest loss is last year’s defensive MVP Antoine Winfield Jr. at safety. Winfield was the best defensive player on the team and was the star of the secondary that ranked 15th in Defensive Passing Success. Nonetheless, it’s not all bad news: Minnesota returns the rest of its starters in the secondary. So, there shouldn’t be a steep drop-off in pass coverage in 2020.

Betting Analysis & Pick

I think we’re going to see a much more explosive Michigan offense with Milton at quarterback. Especially given Minnesota’s substantial defensive turnover, Michigan should move the ball with relative ease on Saturday night. Morgan’s effectiveness may also decline without two of his biggest offensive weapons from last season.

I have Michigan projected as -6.89 favorites, so I think there is value on the Wolverines at -2.5 in Minneapolis. However, I would only play it up to -4.

Pick: Michigan -2.5. (up to -4)

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Steven Branscombe/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats football team.

Matt Wispe: Maryland at Northwestern

Maryland Odds +11 [BET NOW]
Northwestern Odds -11 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +310/-420 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 55 [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Big Ten Network

After going 3-9 in his first season as the head coach for Maryland, Mike Locksley hopes that his recruiting prowess will start to show up on the field and the team finds more success in 2020.

Pat Fitzgerald is a steady presence in the Big Ten. And with a 58.2% under percentage as the head coach, he’s also been a friend to under bettors in positive matchups. Following a disappointing 2019 season with major scoring issues, this Northwestern opener will be one of those games to target.

Both of these teams have traditionally favored a run-heavy offense and, with weather reports forecasting crosswinds up to 13 mph, this game should feature a moving clock that favors a low-scoring game.


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Maryland Terrapins

The jury is still out on whether or not Locksley can be a successful head coach, although his 6-40 career record leans heavily to one side. The team is ranked 84th in overall SP+ and 99th in Offensive SP+. With only five offensive starters returning from a team that averaged 25.2 points per game, there’s plenty of reason to doubt the early-season chances for this Terrapin team.

Maryland averaged a mere 63.9 plays per game with a 35.3% Success Rate, which ranked 10th-worst in 2019. And while the Terps were slightly better rushing the ball with a 39.5% Success Rate, they lost a key member of their three-headed RB committee in Anthony McFarland Jr., who accounted for nine total offensive touchdowns.

The Terrapins return three offensive linemen, and while the stability is a positive, the line had issues last season. It allowed Havoc on 23.8% of plays —  including 83 tackles for loss — and the team was stuffed on 23.6% of rush attempts.

Defensively, Maryland had significant issues in 2019, but it only returns four starters from a defense that allowed 34.7 points per game. Entering the season, the Terps rank as slightly below average at 69th in Defensive SP+.

Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern returns 19 starters from a team that went 3-9 in 2019. Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback over last 2019 transfer Hunter Johnson.

With nearly the entire team back, there’s reason to believe in slight improvement on both sides of the ball. However, after a limited offseason, it’s hard to trust that an offense that averaged 16.3 points per game will become a threat to score on a consistent basis.

The Wildcats ran the ball 62.9% of the time in 2019. Pat’s Cats are always run-heavy, but that number seems like an outlier, and it’s fair to assume the team will likely regress closer to their average run/pass split in 2020. Even so, Fitzgerald’s teams have averaged a 54.7% run percentage on offense during his 14-year tenure, which explains why his Wildcats average 24.5 points per game and have only topped 28 points per game three times during his tenure.

But it appears as if moving on from Johnson was the right decision. The Wildcats had a Passing Success Rate of 32.6%, and as a team, they completed just 50.1% of their pass attempts for an average of 4.5 yards per attempt.

The addition of Ramsey in the offseason welcomes in a new face with starting experience in the Big Ten. In three years at Indiana, Ramsey completed 66.5% of his passes for an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. The only question with the position is how much the expedited training camp and limited spring practice will impact him.

The Wildcats were not much better running the ball. With a Success Rate of just 34.9%, they were stuffed on 20.2% of attempts and generated 2.875 Line Yards per attempt. Isaiah Bowser is listed as the Week 1 starter after averaging 3.5 yards per carry.

Northwestern’s defense typically bailed it out last season. The Wildcats ranked 32nd nationally in Success Rate allowed with 38.1%. They stuffed 24.3% of rush attempts and held opposing offenses to 2.44 line yards per play.

And even in the midst of a 3-9 season, they held opponents to 23.6 points per game. With nearly everyone back on defense, they should remain one of the tougher defenses to score against.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Against most teams in the Big Ten, Maryland’s defense would be a major liability and hurt all chances of an under play. Against a conservative and probably ineffective Northwestern offense, there’s no reason to be worried.

With the weather forcing even more rushing, the clock is going to be moving all game and helps the under even more.

Pick: Under 55 (down to 49.5)

[Bet Northwestern-Maryland at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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