Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota was 5-7 in 2017 and 3-8-1 against the spread. The program regressed after a much improved 2016 season. This will be the second season for Head Coach PJ Fleck and improvement is expected. 2017 was an up and down season defensively. At times the unit showed signs of being very capable, but the season ended with some poor performances. Offensively the squad has struggled considerably and needs a major turnaround.
The offense is led by walk-on Zack Annexstad. The unit features a run-pass option offense that suffered some painful moments last season. Annexstad will be aided by a talented Senior Running Back Rodney Smith. The receiving corps is below average outside of Senior Tyler Johnson who was solid last season despite missing some time with injury.
The defense returns seven starters and should be above average. It will need to be even better to increase the win total as the offense will likely take time to develop. The secondary is the strongest part of the defense as the front 7 have struggled to get to the quarterback. The unit was better against the pass than the run last season and that will likely remain the same in 2018.
The total wins over/under for the Golden Gophers is 6 and the odds to win the conference is north of 70-1. We think Minnesota will struggle to exceed 6 wins, but may very well push. We will make a slight play on the under.
Week #1 is a home game against New Mexico State who is not very good and lost week 1 against Wyoming while struggling to generate any offense on the ground, while giving up a ton of rushing yards. Minnesota is likely a 2 to 3 touchdown victor in this spot.
Week #2 is a home game against Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State is coming off an outstanding season and will be competing for their conference championship. We expect this to be a difficult game for Minnesota and will likely play Fresno State in this spot.
Week #3 is a home game against Miami Ohio from the MAC. Miami is a middle of the road program in an inferior conference, but played Minnesota close the last two times the programs have met. We will reserve judgment on this spot until we have a chance to watch the first two weeks of the season.
Week #4 is a road game against Maryland who is currently struggling with off the field problems. On paper, Maryland is a much more talented team than Minnesota, but it is tough to predict how the off the field issues will affect the Terrapins. If Maryland starts the season well, we expect the trend to continue and for Maryland to handle the Gophers. Week #5 is a bye week.