Minnesota vs. Michigan Odds & Pick: Big Ten Title, Little Brown Jug on the Line in Week 8 (Saturday, Oct. 24)
Lon Horwedel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Bush carrying the Little Brown Jug.
Minnesota vs. Michigan Betting Odds
|Minnesota Odds||+3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Michigan Odds||-3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+136/-168 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||52.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
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 thrusted 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 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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With Shea 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-inch 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 Hawkins 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, since Minnesota’s weakness on defense is against the run.
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 get back talented middle linebackers Cameron McGrone and Josh Ross. 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
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 Gophers offense, which largely does not have the talent to replace Johnson’s or Smith’s previous production. 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 quarterback Tanner 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.
Minnesota’s defense will undergo a complete overhaul in 2020. The Golden Gophers 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.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
I think we’re going to see a much more explosive Michigan offense with Joe Milton at quarterback. Especially given Minnesota’s substantial defensive turnover, Michigan should move the ball with relative ease on Saturday night. Tanner 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. Play up to -4.