The No. 15 Michigan Wolverines hit the road on Saturday, October 31 to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten showdown. The Wolverines had won six straight over the Golden Gophers before losing 14-30 at home last year.
Michigan (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) had its five-game winning streak come to an excruciating end last time out in a 27-23 home loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines seemingly had the game in the bag with 10 seconds to play, but the Spartans blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown with no time remaining on the clock.
Minnesota (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) suffered a big blow in its chances to win the West Division with a 25-48 home loss to Nebraska last time out. Mitch Leidner threw for 301 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in the loss.
Kickoff inside TCF Bank Stadium is scheduled for 7:00 EST Saturday night with ESPN providing the television coverage. If you are going to wager on this game, you’ll be working with a line of Michigan -14 over Minnesota and a total set of 39 points.
My Early Lean: Minnesota +14
The Wolverines are being treated like they are one of the best teams in the country with this 14-point spread. They certainly are improved under Jim Harbaugh, but asking them to go on the road and to put away a pesky Minnesota team by more than two touchdowns to beat us is asking too much. I believe there is some serious line value with the Golden Gophers at home this week.
Both teams are coming off their byes, so there’s no real advantage there. But I will say that Michigan’s bye couldn’t have come at a worse time. Nobody wants to practice for two straight weeks after losing the way that the Wolverines did to Michigan State. That blocked punt return TD was about the worst way you could lose a game. I still believe these players are feeling a hangover effect from that loss and won’t bring their best effort against Minnesota this week after having their national title hopes crushed.
Minnesota is consistently undervalued year in and year out under Jerry Kill. The guy just keeps finding ways to keep the Golden Gophers competitive, and that has been the case again this year. They are off to a 4-3 start and still very much alive in the Big Ten West race. Their first four games were all decided by 6 points or less, which included a 17-23 loss to national title contender TCU.
The Golden Gophers did lose 27-0 on the road to Northwestern, but they only allowed 312 total yards to the Wildcats in that game. They came back with a 41-13 win at Purdue the following week before losing to Nebraska 25-48 at home last time out. But that was a 38-25 game late in the fourth quarter before the Huskers added 10 points late, including an interception return for a TD. The Gophers were outgained by less than 100 yards by the Huskers.
Both of these teams are really built to play in close games, which is why the +14 here has a lot of value. Both teams rely on their defenses, which is why this total has only been set at 39 points. Oddsmakers are expecting a very low-scoring game, which favors the underdog. It would take roughly a 27-13 score for this line to match up with the total, and I don’t see the Wolverines getting to 27 points.
Minnesota has only allowed more than 27 points once this season. It is giving up just 23.1 points, 328.7 yards per game and 4.6 per play against opposing offenses that average 28.1 points, 406 yards per game and 5.5 per play. Now the Golden Gophers will be up against a Michigan offense that simply lacks firepower, which is going to make it hard to cover this big spread on the road.
The Wolverines are only averaging 28.6 points, 367.6 yards per game and 5.3 per play against opposing defenses that allow 25.5 points, 380 yards per game and 5.4 per play. So, Michigan essentially has a below-average offense. Jake Rudock is not a very good quarterback as the Wolverines are only averaging 186 passing yards per game. Minnesota defends the run pretty well, allowing 3.9 yards per carry this season.
Last year, Minnesota thoroughly dominated Michigan 30-14 on the road behind a strong defensive effort. It outgained the Wolverines 373-171 for the game, or by 202 total yards.
Last year, Minnesota thoroughly dominated Michigan 30-14 on the road behind a strong defensive effort. It outgained the Wolverines 373-171 for the game, or by 202 total yards. I look for this Minnesota defense to limit what Rudock and company can do again, and for that to be the reason this game goes down to the wire with the Golden Gophers getting the cover in the end.
Plays on underdogs of 10.5 to 21 points (MINNESOTA) – after failing to cover the spread in 3 out of their last 4 games against opponent after covering the spread in 2 out of their last 3 games are 224-143 (61%) ATS since 1992. The Wolverines are 12-26-1 ATS in their last 39 road games. Minnesota is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games following a double-digit home loss. The Golden Gophers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a bye week. Minnesota is 13-4 ATS in its last 17 conference games.
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