The Big Ten’s second week of football action will occur in the ninth week of the college football play and it begins Friday night when the Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-1) play at College Park against the Maryland Terrapins (0-1). Both teams come off disappointing opening losses, but Maryland’s 43-3 loss at Northwestern stood out more on the stink chart and it shows with the inflated point-spread being offered by sportsbooks.
But that’s what the oddsmakers do. They have to try and create balanced action for their operation. To the average bettor, Minnesota’s 49-24 home loss to Michigan (-3) is easier to accept than a Maryland squad who marched down the field to score the first points only to allow a light offense like Northwestern score 43 unanswered. The casual bettor would surely lay -14 with Minnesota, but how about -20?
Let’s call it a luxury tax on Minnesota, or against Maryland.
Circa Sports was the first book in Nevada to open college numbers on Sunday afternoon and they posted Minnesota -18 with a total set at 61. By the end of the night, they had bet up to -20.5. From Monday through Wednesday, they didn’t have much action on the game and stayed at -20, but on Thursday they dropped to -19.5. They posted the money-line with Minnesota -1,050/Maryland +700. The SuperBook, William Hill, and South Point are all at -20.
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Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White adjusted Minnesota down to his 33rd ranked team (108.5) after the loss last week and dropped Maryland down to No. 87 (95.0) making his spread Minnesota -13.5 on a neutral field which is exactly what this game is with no fans allowed in the stands of Maryland Stadium (no tailgating allowed, either). In addition to his number of Minnesota -13.5, his total is 64.5.
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Friday’s weather at College Park, MD will have temperatures at around 47 degrees, rain expected early in the day, but minimal by game-time. The winds will be almost non-existent after being 10 mph during the day. Humidity will be at 72%.
The Gophers come off an inspiring 11-2 season and head coach P.J. Fleck headed into his fourth season with expectations that 13 returning starters on offense, including junior QB Tanner Morgan, could duplicate or better 2019. But the passing game (197 yards) never found a rhythm and the defense with only four starters returning had some issues allowing Michigan 478 yards of total offense.
The good news that came from the game is that RB Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 140 yards and scored twice against a very good Michigan defense. The Gophers want to throw the ball and Morgan won’t be kept down for long after throwing 30 TDs and completing 66% of his passes last season. The other good news for Minnesota is that all five of their starting offensive-linemen from 2019 return. Those five linemen are considered one of the best units in the Big Ten averaging 6’6” and 340 pounds. The incentive for Minnesota to keep going strong in a short season despite the Michigan loss is trying to win the weaker west division of the Big Ten.
Mike Locksley starts his second season at Maryland just like his 2019 season ended. They lost their last seven games, but the 3-9 record overall improved his career mark to 6-40 after a three-year stint as New Mexico’s head coach. He brings back five defensive starters from 2019 and six starts on offense, including four of the five offensive linemen. Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa’s debut at QB for the Terps went about as poorly as could be imagined with only 94 yards passing and three interceptions. The defense also allowed 537 yards to Northwestern that averaged 297 yards and 16 ppg last season. The good news for Maryland is that it can only get better from here after setting the bar so low in its opener.
Minnesota has gone over the total in its last six games as the road favorite
Maryland has stayed under in its last five games on Friday night. In Maryland’s last six games after allowing 40-points or more, they’ve stayed under the total.
The last three meetings between Minnesota and Maryland have gone over the total. The last two meetings have been blowouts, one by both teams. Last season, Minnesota (-14) won 52-20 at home with a 498-210 yardage advantage. In 2018, Maryland (-2.5) rolled 42-13 at home holding a 432-263 advantage.
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck was asked about his early impression of Maryland during his press conference on Monday:
"They got a lot of athletes on the field,” Fleck said. “They don't have a lot of returning starters, but they brought in a lot of transfers from all over the place that are really, really talented, long big and they all can run. Whether that's on the defensive side, on the offensive side, they got a lot of skilled players. #7 (WR Dontay Demus) is as good of a wide receiver we have in the league. And the young quarterback, they're going to play him. They're going to run him and they're going to get him outside the pocket."
“They're going to switch up what they do with the run and pass and they're going to be balanced, but they got a lot of athletes. And that's what we see early on so far is they got a lot of athletes. A lot of people play, especially on the defensive side of the ball."
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