- Spread: Michigan -3.5
- Moneyline: Michigan -155; Minnesota +125
- Over/Under: 54.5
*Odds via DraftKings.com
If you are thinking it is taking the Big Ten forever to get started, well—you are not wrong. But starting with Illinois-Wisconsin Friday night, the Big Ten season will finally get underway. While Ohio State is likely going to be the team everyone wants to see most, the better storylines are elsewhere.
Yes, every game Ohio State plays in will have national title implications, including their season opener. But does anyone really think they are going to have much trouble against Nebraska? Anyone outside of the state of Nebraska? Probably not.
However, the outcome between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota is not as cut and dry. The emergence of the Golden Gophers surprised everyone last season, but Jim Harbaugh’s team always has high expectations. Both are expected to be among the conference’s best this season.
But only one can start the season 1-0.
Michigan Wolverines Betting Preview
The Wolverines have had to do one thing every season during the Jim Harbaugh Era to contend for the Big Ten title—find a quarterback. This season will be no different. With Dylan McCaffrey sitting out and planning on transferring, that means the job will be going to Joe Milton.
However, while Milton has the size and athleticism you like to see in a quarterback, he lacks experience. So, he will have to learn as he goes. He will not have much experience at wide receiver to help him out with Donovan People-Jones in the NFL, Tarik Black at Texas, and Nico Collins sitting out.
In case things were not challenging enough, he will not benefit from a veteran offensive line either. With Jaylen Mayfield opting back in, they will need to find four new offensive line starters—not an ideal situation for a new starting quarterback.
While there is no standout running back, Milton is expected to have a talented group joining him in the Michigan backfield.
But it looks like the offensive may have time to gel with most of their top-ranked defense coming back. The Michigan defense lost three of their top tacklers from last year’s 11th ranked defense, but defensive depth has not been an issue under Harbaugh.
The Wolverines will need their defense to slow down Minnesota’s offense if they are going to have a chance to win this week.
Minnesota Golden Gophers Betting Preview
The Golden Gophers are in a situation similar to Michigan’s but different. Instead of needing to find several new starters on offense, their offense looks like it could be the best in the conference. Tanner Morgan is back, and he will have a future NFL wide receiver to work with once again in Rashod Bateman.
Overall, the offense has nine returning starters, which means the Golden Gophers should have the edge offensively. But that edge may not be enough with the work they need to do on defense. Four starters off last year’s top-ten defense got drafted, and the team is down nine of their top 12 tacklers, too.
While they may have size in their defensive front, it is not clear where the pass rush will come from. They may be okay at linebacker but will need Itayvion Brown to step up early. Jordan Howden will anchor the secondary, but Minnesota will struggle to replace Antoine Winfield.
The key for the Gophers will be getting the connection between Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman on track early. It will not be easy against Michigan. But if they can, that will make Michigan a little predictable on offense, which would, in turn, help out their young defense.
OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week Betting Prediction
Neither team could have been happy when they saw the schedule. During a typical season, opening against a formidable opponent and winning is a great way to make a statement. But that is also after having the usual spring practice and training camp to prepare—which is not the case here.
Like teams from the Big 12, ACC, and SEC, both will likely struggle to start the game as it will be the first time everyone is going up against a live opponent. Winning the game will come down to whoever can get things on track first.
Minnesota will need to strike quick and get some points on the board while the Wolverines are getting things figured out on offense. Look for them to target the hole in the secondary created when Ambry Thomas decided to opt-out.
Assuming the Golden Gophers can do so and score enough to keep Michigan from leaning on their run game, they will record the upset.
So—how should you bet? Take Minnesota to win straight up and against the spread. As for the over/under, don’t expect a ton of points right out of the gate. Take the under.