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Minnesota Week Roundtable: MnB staff divided on Michigan’s chances Saturday

Our staff weighs in with their predictions for Saturday’s game.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our first 2020 Michigan Wolverines football game week! As is tradition, we close out the week with predictions from our staff on what to expect from Saturday’s game. Here’s what this week’s panel sees happening in the contest against Minnesota.

What’s are you most confident about for Michigan heading into Saturday’s game

Dan Plocher: “I’m confident Zach Charbonnet and the running game will be effective. With the cold and even potential snow on the way, the last thing I would want is to tackle the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Charbonnet, and I can tell you that Minnesota will feel the same way. As Joe Milton takes over for his first game as the quarterback, I expect the Wolverines to rely on their run game early to help ease the transition at quarterback.”

Anthony Broome: “This team is going to be able to score. There are enough pieces around Joe Milton and I’m confident about the team’s ability to move the ball on the ground. I’m looking forward to seeing Josh Gattis’ game plan, as this roster seems more tailored for what he wants to do at Michigan offensively.”

Andrew Bailey: “Michigan’s ability to run the football. The backfield has a plethora of talented backs, the Wolverines have tons of beef up front, and Minnesota returns very little productivity in the front 7.”

Chris Castellani: “I’m confident in the running backs. Based on the weather report, running the ball will be imperative.”

Stephen Osentoski: “1. Michigan’s defensive ends will feast despite Minnesota trying everything they can to not let them. 2. Michigan will score 30+ points 3. The RBs will outshine Joe Milton”

What are you least confident about for Michigan heading into Saturday’s game?

Plocher: “I’m least confident in the cornerback group facing one of the most explosive offenses in the conference in the opening week of the season. Brad Hawkins said that Rashod Bateman would be Vincent Gray’s responsibility which gives me a haunting feeling that Don Brown will rely on single coverage against a top two QB-WR duo in the Big Ten. It could be a recipe for disaster.”

Broome: “The cornerbacks. I think that Vincent Gray is a good player and will take a step forward. Outside of that, I’m unsure of what Michigan has there only because we have not seen them play yet. I am confident in Mike Zordich’s ability to develop that group, but I just do not know what is going to look like right off the bat this season.”

Bailey: “The cornerback situation. Vincent Gray is unproven as Michigan’s no. 1 and draws Rashod Bateman Week 1. Moreover, who knows who will be starting opposite of him. The safety position is strong, which will help, but if either corner is left on an island too long, it could spell trouble.”

Castellani: “The secondary. We saw last year how much Michigan struggled last year against experienced QB’s, and that was with an experienced secondary. Tanner Morgan lit it up last year and Michigan lost 3 DB’s.”

Osentoski: “1. The DTs — need to see it to believe it. 2. That Michigan will bottle up Bateman. Think he gets a couple scores. 3. The ability to win the turnover battle.”

Michigan wins the game if __________

Plocher: “Michigan wins the game if they control the line of scrimmage on both ends. Lots of question marks come into the year on the offensive line as only Jalen Mayfield returns. Keeping Milton upright and provide holes for the talented backs and I like the Wolverines chances. Defensively speaking, putting pressure on an experience Minnesota offensive lien and quarterback combo will be pivotal. It would be hard to pick against the Wolverines if Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson win on the outside and wreak havoc.”

Broome: The Joe Milton hype materializes right off the bat. Michigan’s chances in this game depend on him playing a cleaner game than Tanner Morgan and if he does, they should walk out with a victory. Rashod Bateman is going to get his, but they cannot let him run wild.

Bailey: “The Michigan defense can make Minnesota’s attack one dimensional and pressure Tanner Morgan.”

Castellani: “If they win the turnover battle.”

Osentoski: “They establish the run early. Last thing you want to do is lean on your brand new QB against a solid opponent on the road. If the OL is serviceable and can make things manageable for Milton, it’ll put the team in a good spot to come out of Minneapolis with a win.”

Michigan loses the game if __________

Plocher: “Michigan loses the game if Rashod Bateman and Tanner Morgan have big days. Both sides will be without key players from a year ago, but these two are capable of breaking off the big plays that can move the scale. Bateman averaged 20.3 yards per reception and Morgan. Slowing down that production will be the key to limiting the Minnesota offense and giving the Wolverines the chance in this one.”

Broome: “If the back end of the defense is unable to contain the Minnesota passing attack and Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye are held in check by the Gophers’ offensive line.”

Bailey: “Minnesota can establish the run and allow Tanner Morgan to work out of clean pockets in play action.”

Castellani: “They fall behind early.”

Osentoski: “They don’t protect the football. I have enough faith in the defense this year to keep Minnesota to 21-28 points. That doesn’t happen if you give Minnesota a short field or lose the time of possession battle. The Gopher offense has too good of a QB to do that.”

What’s your score prediction for Saturday? Explain.

Plocher: “24-17, Minnesota. I think the Wolverines come out slow on the road and Minnesota takes advantage. The Gophers want people to know they are the real deal after a strong 2019 season. A great way to do that would be with a strong start against a prestigious program like Michigan. But the Wolverines don’t go away easy, they claw back, proving they are a formidable team, but still not among the elite in the conference and the country. Harbaugh’s road struggles continue, and Michigan heads into a meeting with Sparty 0-1.”

Broome: “Minnesota 28, Michigan 27. It kind of feels like this is as 50/50 on a game I have never been since covering this team. I said it in the game preview, but on paper there are less question marks with Minnesota than Michigan. If the Wolverines do pull it off, it could be the start of something notable.”

Bailey: “Michigan 31-24. The weather could slow things down, but I believe Michigan will have a balanced attack and do just enough to take Tanner Morgan off his game. The match-up to watch is Minnesota’s O-line vs. Michigan’s D-line. Whoever wins there will win the game, and I believe it’ll be the Wolverines.”

Castellani: “28-20 Minnesota. As is tradition at this point, Michigan stumbles early and their comeback falls short at the end.”

Osentoski: “I had this as a Minnesota win before they had 2 OL looking like they’re out. That’s huge for Michigan and levels the playing field, a bit. I expect a higher amount of scoring in the first half, as we’ve seen offenses across the board in CFB a step ahead of defenses (see Alabama vs. Ole Miss). If Michigan can get the ground game going early and limit turnovers, I like their chances against what I expect to be the Morgan and Bateman show for Minnesota. I trust Zordich and the secondary, overall, but Bateman is going to get his and Morgan’s a solid QB. They’ll put up points, it’s more about keeping up early and letting the defense settle in as the game progresses. 31-28 Michigan.”