Over/Under 6 Wins () vs Minnesota Golden Gophers ()Date : 08/30/2018
Time : First Game: New Mexico State Aggies @ Minnesota Golden Gophers 7:00 PM
Location : TCF Bank Stadium
Pick, Prediction, & Preview:
Over/Under 6 Wins vs Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Minnesota Golden Gophers became accustomed to bowl appearances from 2012-2016 as they made one in every single season but the P.J. Fleck era did not start as desired for the Golden Gopher program in 2017 as they took a step back by going 5-7. There is still hope that Fleck will get this program back to relevancy as he was the mastermind in turning around Western Michigan in his previous stop. Minnesota will need more consistency at the quarterback spot as they had 2 different guys split snaps last season but none stood out as the Golden Gophers only threw 7 touchdown passes in Big Ten play. Whoever takes the starting snaps for Minnesota may experience some rough patches as the offensive line only returns one guy who started all 12 games in 2017. P.J. Fleck had a solid defense in 2017 as they were in the top half of the Big Ten and luckily for him, he returns most of his starters from last year and then some. Fleck has been a well-established recruiter in his time as a head coach and he was solid in his 2nd full season at Minnesota as his 2018 recruiting class ranked 7th out of 14th in terms of Big Ten teams. Minnesota was successful in making sure they filled the necessary needs this offseason as they signed two 4-star offensive linemen as well as a 4-star WR from the state of Georgia.
Over/Under 6 Wins's Latest Performance :
The Golden Gophers failed to make a bowl game for only the 5th time since 1999 but don’t expect this to be the norm as P.J. Fleck led his group of five Western Michigan squad to the Cotton Bowl back in 2016. Minnesota will experience some changes at the quarterback position as they will have an inexperienced guy taking snaps but outside of the QB position there is not much turnover from the 5-7 2017 squad. Oddsmakers have taken this into account and know the success of P.J. Fleck which is why the over/under has been set at 6 wins.
Tough Big Ten Road Slate
Minnesota will be well-tested in Big Ten play this season as they will have a tough slate of road games which includes matchups against the two teams that played in the conference championship last season. Minnesota will travel to both Ohio State and Wisconsin which are arguably the two toughest places to play at. The non-conference schedule should contribute to a successful season for the Golden Gophers as they will play New Mexico State, Fresno State, and Miami Ohio at home in consecutive weeks. The home big ten schedule could also be a test as they will see some solid Big Ten teams like Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, and Northwestern all teams who have been bowl squads over the last few years. Minnesota will miss out on playing against the dreaded Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State programs but they still have a tough schedule ahead of them.
Minnesota Golden Gophers's Latest Performance :
P.J. Fleck inserted a run-pass option offense in his first season at the helm of Minnesota but the passing game failed miserably as the Golden Gophers ranked 112th in the nation in yards per game. Minnesota will hopefully roll with one quarterback this season which should make things run more consistent and the guy penciled into the starting lineup is redshirt sophomore, Tanner Morgan. Morgan has yet to attempt a pass at the FBS level but he has always been a Fleck favorite as he was originally committed to Western Michigan before Fleck took the job at Minnesota. Minnesota will bring back their workhorse running back Rodney Smith (977 yards in ’17) for another season but he will need a second piece to back him up especially if he receives in the upwards of 250 carries again. Tyler Johnson will once again be the top playmaker from the wide receiver position and he should be ready to shoulder more of a load in his junior season after he led the team with 677 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. Fleck will need to find a consistent starter opposite of Johnson and hopefully 4-star WR Rashod Bateman can fill that void as he chose Minnesota over Georgia, Ole Miss, and South Carolina with hopes of playing early on in his career. The defense will have to step up once again in 2018 if they want any hope of making the postseason for the first time in the Fleck era. Thomas Barber was all over the field last year from the middle linebacker spot as he led the team in tackles with 115 and I would expect the junior to have an even bigger year in his second season in the 4-3 scheme. A reason that Minnesota ranked in the top 15 in pass defense last year was because of LB Carter Coughlin causing a ruckus in the backfield. Coughlin was a beast from the linebacker spot as the junior led the team in TFL (11.5) and in sacks (6.5), he is another guy who can be a candidate for an All-Big Ten spot. The returning leaders don’t only stop in the front 7 but they will also return their interception leader from 2017 in Jacob Huff who had 3 interceptions with 1 of them being returned to the house.
Player To Watch
Rodney Smith, RB, RS Sr.
The heart of this Minnesota football team for the last 3 seasons has been running back Rodney Smith as he has handled the majority of the dirty work in the Minnesota offense. Smith is going into his last season with NFL aspirations but he has a chance to make his mark in the Minnesota Golden Gophers record book as he is only 1200 all-purpose yards away from being the record holder in this 127-year program. Smith was supplemented by two other running backs this season but both of those backs have run out of eligibility which tells me Smith will shoulder more of a load this season which should put him at that #1 spot in the record book. Smith is also a solid kick returner for this team as he was the lone Gopher to return a kick for a touchdown last season, so expect him to pick up a majority of his all-purpose yards through the return game.
How Over/Under 6 Wins & Minnesota Golden Gophers Matchup.
Vegas Odds, Offshore Odds, & Odds ATS:
Over 6 Wins -Even
Under 6 Wins -120
In-Depth Analysis of each team:
8/30- New Mexico State- W
9/8- Fresno State- W
9/15- Miami (OH)- W
9/22- @ Maryland- W
10/6- Iowa- L
10/13- @ Ohio State- L
10/20- @ Nebraska- L
10/26- Indiana- W
11/3- @ Illinois- W
11/10- Purdue- L
11/17- Northwestern- L
11/24- @ Wisconsin- L
Overall Record- 6-6
Against The Spread Selection: Push, Lean Over 6 Wins - Even
My reason for the pick :
Minnesota returns most of their key pieces from 2017 as they will have another stout defense with some solid weapons on offense but the one spot that can cause concern is the quarterback position. Minnesota regardless of who starts at quarterback will have never taken an FBS snap which may not seem like a big deal especially in the smaller conferences but this is the Big Ten and the Ohio State and Wisconsin pass rushes will eat up an inexperienced QB. Regardless of what happens at the quarterback position, we should still see P.J. Fleck get this team to their first bowl game under him as the defense could carry the way. From a betting standpoint, I have Minnesota at 6 wins but they could potentially win 7 games if they steal a game at home from Purdue or Northwestern which is a reasonable task. Lean over the 6 win total if you have to bet on it.