First, I’d like to wish a very blessed and happy morning to everyone except Michigan fans. If you’re going to bandwagon one national brand team, why would you pick a team that never wins?
Anyway, it’s a beautiful day here in Minnesota (just don’t look outside) and ESPN College Gameday is about to wrap up from TCF Bank Stadium. But football fans across the state are already primed for what’s expected to be a much more eventful evening.
I think the Gophers win this game big, because of their offense. It’s going to be difficult for the Wolverines to keep up with Minnesota in the points department. If that sounds crazy, Michigan fans on Twitter agree with you… but let me explain.
2020 Michigan just isn’t very good. I expect the Gophers to win tomorrow by 14+ at least.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 24, 2020
— Double BB (@BBsBigHouse1) October 24, 2020
Minnesota by the 2nd quarter. pic.twitter.com/IUzlCIc6Ze— Tril0gy (@TRILOGY810) October 24, 2020
You won’t think I’m crazy once this game gets rolling. A couple things will have to go right early but I just don’t think the Michigan Wolverines defense is ready for what is about hit them at 6:30 PM. Obviously, a lot can happen in football and that’s why we love the game. But, I watched 2019 Michigan tape all day Friday and came out of it with a very overrated taste in my mouth.
Can Milton Keep Up w/Morgan?
I wrote about Joe Milton earlier in the week and there’s no questioning his high ceiling. If he blows Michigan back up into a powerhouse and turns Harbaugh into a coach who can beat Ohio State, then he might even be the next Cam Newton. But in his first game as a starter, with an inexperienced OL and new WR’s, I’m not sure he can keep pace with this Gopher offense.
Tanner Morgan took over the starting job in Minnesota at the beginning of 2019 and never looked back, earning all-conference 2nd team honors and breaking all the school passing records along the way. With Rashod Bateman and Mohamed Ibrahim returning, along with an experienced OL, I expect the 2020 Gophers to put up points fast and steady, starting with tonight’s first drive.
Last season, Minnesota finished with the 22nd best offense nationwide. Michigan’s finished 44th. Now, one of those teams brings back everyone who mattered from 2019, beyond Tyler Johnson. Rodney Smith was a good running back but there’s a reason why Mo Ibrahim got more carries than he did in the Outback Bowl vs Auburn. Michigan’s offense, on the other hand, is replacing every name that anyone knew outside of the running back position.
Both the Michigan and Minnesota defenses have a lot of new pieces being integrated, so we will find out a lot about both tonight. We know Michigan has Dom Brown, plus an experienced and talented defensive line.
The Gophers will rely on a bevy of experience at cornerback and the success they’ve seen defensively as a whole, since promoting Joe Rossi 1.5 seasons ago.
Both Coney Durr and Benjamin St. Juste have 2021 NFL Draft written all over their player profiles and they’ll have to earn it, leading an otherwise inexperienced defensive crew. Remember, Michigan tried getting St. Juste to medically retire before he graduated early and transferred to Minnesota before last season.
Unknown COVID Absences
We never got a depth chart this week, as we waited for Saturday to finally arrive. That’s because PJ Fleck has admitted to likely absences tonight, stemming from COVID-related positive tests or voluntary 2020 opt-outs.
Betting money has Daniel Faalele, Curtis Dunlap and Bralen Oliver as the most-likely casualties… but Fleck wouldn’t confirm anything this week, so we’re all waiting impatiently for news on that front.
Turnovers / Penalties / Special Teams
This seems like something that should be minuscule in importance but I think it’s big tonight. The Gophers were better than the Wolverines in both the penalty and turnover categories last season. If they can force a few turnovers against a new QB, while being disciplined themselves, this game could get ugly in a good way.
I slipped special teams into this category because Minnesota’s was so bad last season. Just like a turnover, big special team plays create unnecessary momentum and put extra pressure on an already questionable defense (as discussed above).
Why Minnesota Wins
It’s no surprise that Michigan fans are laughing at any confidence shown from fans in Minnesota. They’ve dominated this rivalry for 50 years. But, the team they are about to walk into on Saturday night, is nothing like any Gopher teams they’ve seen before.
If Minnesota can get off to a good start tonight and Tanner Morgan is ready to step into that top-tier NCAA QB conversation, then I just can’t see this Michigan offense keeping up. The Gopher defense will be better than expected too.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan