The No. 18 Michigan Wolverines (0-0) and No. 21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-0) wrap up the opening weekend of Big Ten football Saturday night in Week 8 of the 2020 college football season. The Big Ten will play eight-consecutive weeks of action beginning with this weekend’s contests. The nationally televised contest is scheduled for a 7:30 P.M. Eastern kickoff on ABC inside TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.
Michigan is a three-point favorite in the conference opener.
What to Know – Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines enter the unique 2020 season with plenty to prove in head coach Jim Harbaugh’s sixth season, where he has amassed a 47-18 record. Michigan finished the 2019 season with a 9-4 mark and a 3rd-place finish in the Big Ten East standings.
With Shea Patterson gone, the Wolverines expected Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton to battle for the quarterback position. McCaffrey opted out of the 2020 season and is seeking a transfer, so Milton should take over the duties. The redshirt sophomore has attempted just 11 passes in a Wolverine uniform.
Sophomores Zach Charbonnet (149 carries, 726 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2019) and Hassan Haskins (121 carries, 622 yards, four touchdowns in 2019) return in the backfield for Michigan. The pair carried a bulk of the workload last season as freshmen but will be running behind an offensive line that is replacing four starters.
Leading wide receiver Nico Collins also opted out this season, so the Wolverines will be young and inexperienced on the outside at receiver. Tight end Nick Eubanks is the team’s leading pass catcher. The senior hauled in 25 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.
Defensively, Michigan returns a bulk of last season’s playmakers in the front seven and will usher in new faces in the secondary. The Wolverines defensive unit allowed 19.5 points and 292.8 yards per game last season.
What to Know – Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head coach P.J. Fleck has taken the Gophers program to new heights since he was hired in 2017. Minnesota wrapped up the 2019 season with an 11-2 record, which was the first time the program had won more than ten games since 1904. The Golden Gophers finished in second in the Big Ten West.
Redshirt junior Tanner Morgan is back under center for the Gophers. A second-team all-conference selection last year, Morgan completed 210-of-318 passes for 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2019.
Mohamed Ibrahim replaces 1,000-yard rusher Rodney Smith at running back. The redshirt junior carried the ball 114 times for 604 yards and seven scores last season. Ibrahim was the team’s leading rusher in 2018.
All-American wide receiver Rashod Bateman initially opted out but has been cleared to play by the NCAA. Bateman, a projected first-round pick in the 2021 draft, will likely draw matchups against opponents’ top cornerbacks, so Chris Autman-Bell (28 catches, 371 yards, five touchdowns) is expected to step into a more prominent receiving role. Bateman and 5th round selection Tyler Johnson each tallied more than 1,000 receiving yards for the Gophers last season.
Five starters return to a Gophers defense that ranked third in the Big Ten in yards allowed in 2019-20. Minnesota surrendered 22.4 points and 312.8 yards per game.
The Pick is In
Opening contests are always tricky to predict with the unknowns that surround most teams. The Gophers are 7-2-1 against the spread in their last ten contests, and we expect that to continue Saturday night.
Take the Golden Gophers and the points (+3) in this one.