The Michigan Wolverines (2-2) kick off Big Ten play against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1) at home on Saturday, September 27th. The Wolverines have won six straight in this series, including a 42-13 home victory in their most recent showdown in 2013.
The Wolverines are coming off their second loss of the season, this time at home against Utah by a final of 10-26. The Golden Gophers got back on track following a loss to TCU with a 24-7 home victory over San Jose State last week.
Kickoff inside Michigan Stadium is set for 3:30 EST Saturday afternoon with either ABC or ESPN 2 providing the television coverage depending on your region. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed Michigan as a 13-point favorite over Minnesota with a total set of 43 points.
My Early Lean: Michigan -13
I really believe that the Wolverines are a serious threat to win the Big Ten West division this year despite the 2-2 start. They still have their entire conference season ahead of them and plenty to play for, which is a point that head coach Brady Hoke has been making to his players. That’s a good move on his part after frustrating losses to both Notre Dame (0-31) and Utah (10-26) in games that weren’t nearly the blowouts they would indicate.
In fact, Michigan actually outgained both Notre Dame and Utah in the losses. It held the Fighting Irish to just 280 yards of offense while limiting the Utes to 286 total yards. That means that the Wolverines have now held all four of their opponents to 290 or fewer yards of total offense when you count the 52-14 win over Appalachian State and the 34-10 triumph against Miami Ohio.
Indeed, the Wolverines have an elite defense that should shut down this one-dimensional Minnesota offense. They are giving up just 261.0 yards per game and 4.2 yards per play. Minnesota is averaging just 336.0 yards per game of total offense. It has no passing game to speak of as it is managing 100 yards through the air and 236 yards on the ground. The strength of the Michigan defense is its run D, which is giving up just 80 rushing yards per game and 2.5 per carry.
The Michigan offense is a concern as it gave away the games to Notre Dame and Utah by committing a combined eight turnovers in those two contests. However, this is an offense that put up 42 points in the 42-13 win over Minnesota last year and didn’t commit a single turnover. Devin Gardner was extremely efficient in that win, going 13 of 17 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a rushing score on the ground.
While the Wolverines have outgained every opponent they have face, the Gophers have actually been outgained in three of their four games despite their 3-1 record. Their only road game resulted in an ugly 7-30 loss to TCU. Their offense was held to 268 total yards in that contest while committing five turnovers. Quarterback Mitch Leidner threw three interceptions in that game. He is banged up right now and questionable to play this week after missing the last game due to injury. Backup Chris Streveler completed just one of seven passes in their 24-7 win over San Jose State. The Gophers won’t get away with being one-dimensional against this Michigan defense.
Michigan is a perfect 6-0 SU & 6-0 ATS in its last six meetings with Minnesota. It has won all six games by 14 points or more.
Michigan is a perfect 6-0 SU & 6-0 ATS in its last six meetings with Minnesota. It has won all six games by 14 points or more in the process, so the Gophers haven’t even been able to hang around. I expect another 14-plus point win in this one for the Wolverines as they get off to a great start to Big Ten action.