Saturday, October 24, 2020, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 7:44 p.m. ET
Wolverines at Golden Gophers Preview: Wolverines (-3), Golden Gophers (+3)
Coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t committing to name his starting quarterback yet as the No. 18 Wolverines face a dangerous Minnesota team.
Junior Joe Milton figured to be the starter, though he has thrown only 11 passes the past two seasons. Harbaugh said redshirt freshman Cade McNamara is still in the competition.
Harbaugh said Milton has been running with the first unit, however.
“He’s made a lot of strides, getting a lot of reps, as well as Cade McNamara, who’s closed all gaps as well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s playing extremely well. Really good command of the offense. Showing a real savviness and also a lot of talent.”
The Wolverines have their top receiver, Ronnie Bell with 48 catches for 758 yards returning and their top two rushers, Zach Charbonnet (726 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Hassan Hawkins (622) as well Chris Evans are back. Evans missed the 2019 season to injury but has rushed for 1,722 yards in his career.
“The guys have each others’ back,” Harbaugh said. “Just the one-ness of the team. Been thrilled to be around. I like these players, I think they really like us, they like me, like their teammates. It’s a fun team to coach.”
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tanner Morgan gives the No. 21 Golden Gophers a leg up in one key area in the only matchup of ranked teams among Saturday’s Big Ten openers. While the Wolverines will be starting a new quarterback, Morgan is a veteran who passed for 30 touchdowns in leading the Gophers to their first 11-win season in 115 years in 2019.
“I think that what’s going to elevate his game is being able to find a way to get everybody else around him to elevate their play based on how he plays,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “I think his leadership has gone through the roof. It’s better now than it’s ever been. His familiarity with the offense, his film study, familiarity with his teammates has all made him a better leader.”
Morgan has two key returnees to help him out. Rashod Bateman was the team’s second-leading receiver a year ago, after racking up 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns on 60 receptions in 2019. Mohamed Ibrahim (604 rushing yards, seven TDs) is expected to be the lead back for the Gophers.
Defensively, the Gophers lose their top three tacklers from 2019, though Fleck sees progress in the unit.
“There’s going to be a lot of questions that come up every single week,” Fleck said. “I’m excited about where our defense is headed. I think I have a good feeling about where we’re at, but again you don’t know until the lights come on and until these guys are actually playing games.”
Wolverines at Golden Gophers Betting Pick for October 24, 2020
With the two teams in separate Big Ten divisions, they haven’t met since Michigan won 33-10 in 2017. That was Fleck’s first season with the Gophers, and they finished with a 5-7 record. Morgan and Bateman will make the difference this time.
Wolverines at Golden Gophers Betting Pick:
Gophers 28, Wolverines 21
Wolverines at Golden Gophers Best Bet for October 24, 2020
The Wolverines return only five starters on defense counting Brad Hawkins and Daxton Hill, who split time at safety, as one and will be going up against a Gophers’ offense that averaged just over 35 points and 432 yards a game. Despite their gaudy overall 11-2 record, however, both of the Gophers’ losses (Iowa and Wisconsin) came in their last four game.
Wolverines at Golden Gophers Best Bet: UNDER 55
–Field Level Media