Minnesota vs. Ohio State Predictions: Can the Golden Gophers Pull Off the Upset Against the Buckeyes in Thursday Night's Opener?

College Football expert Ian Cameron gives his first prediction and pick of the week as he previews the Thursday night matchup between Minnesota and 4 Ohio State.
Ian Cameron
Tue, August 31, 12:02 PM EDT

Minnesota vs. Ohio State Predictions: Buckeyes Hope For Another Shot At a National Championship in 2021

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Point Spread: Ohio State -14

Total: 64.5

Game Time: 8:00 PM ET

TV: FOX

Minnesota vs. Ohio State Prediction:

Minnesota vs. Ohio State Odds

The Ohio State Buckeyes were one win away from the national title last season and now will look to get themselves back to that spot and beyond as they begin the 2021 season with a Big Ten conference opener on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Ohio State is at the point where they reload as opposed to rebuild every season, and that isn’t changing here in 2021 for head coach Ryan Day who had the second-best recruiting ranking in the country with the 2021 class he brought to Columbus. There is talent and depth at every single position on the football field, and they possess arguably the best and deepest WR corps in the country led by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

Still, when handicapping this first game of the season, the fact remains that the Buckeyes do face some challenges here. They must replace their outstanding dual-threat QB Justin Fields and turn to C.J. Stroud at the QB position for this game. In addition, Ohio State must replace multiple starters along the offensive line, and the interior of the line features new starters. On the defensive side of the football, the Buckeyes only return five starters and must replace a lot on that side of the football along with all three levels of the defense. Ohio State has recruited as well as anyone, and there is no doubt they will mold a quality defense as the season progresses. Still, I have my doubts about whether that defense will have all their cohesion and rhythm issues in check as they get ready for this Big Ten season opener on the road against Minnesota.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are trying to rebound from a disappointing setback of a 2020 season in which they were 3-3-1 SU. However, they did go 4-3 ATS, which was a step backward following their terrific 10-2 in the regular season in 2019.

They bring back senior QB Tanner Morgan, who has tons of experience and should have his best season yet leading an offense that also has senior Mohamed Ibrahim back at RB and five senior offensive line starters returning. That continuity and experience along the offensive line are key for Minnesota, considering that Ohio State has a solid defensive front of their own. Minnesota has a chance to exploit some of the vulnerability in Ohio State’s linebacking corps and secondary, which is weaker than their defensive line. I think Morgan could have success finding some of his targets down the field. Despite losing Rashad Bateman to the NFL Draft, the Gophers return an excellent senior WR in Chris Altman-Bell, who was second in receptions on the team last season. This should be a very balanced attack on offense.

On defense, the Gophers bring back a lot of talent with ten starters back. Most of their defensive line returns with three starters back but most notably here in this matchup against a loaded Ohio State receiving corps is that Minnesota returns their entire starting secondary from last year’s squad. Minnesota utilizes a 4-2-5 scheme on defense, which means they play five defensive backs. That is a massive plus for them in this particular game against Ohio State as they go up against that outstanding group of wide receivers for the Buckeyes.

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Ohio State is 2-0 SU but just 1-1 ATS under head coach Ryan Day in season openers with double-digit home wins against Florida Atlantic in 2019 and Nebraska in 2020. This game will be more difficult than either of those two previous season openers having to face what could end up being an excellent Big Ten team on the road to begin the campaign.

With the line climbing up to Ohio State being two TD favorites at most sportsbooks, I have a definitive lean toward the home underdog Minnesota Golden Gophers +14 in this one.

Ohio State will be excellent once again this season and continue to improve. They will be at their best yet again and likely on pace for another Big Ten title by November. Still, the Buckeyes are ranked near the bottom in returning production from last year’s team that beat Clemson in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff and lost to Alabama in the national championship game. They have to replace a lot on both sides of the football, including their NFL-bound QB Justin Fields. Chances are the significant personnel changes show up more on the field for Ohio State in their season opener this year which is a tougher road game in conference play against Minnesota than it has in the last few seasons when they have opened the season.

I’ll side with the Golden Gophers here at +14 on their home field and their 10-4 ATS streak as underdogs under head coach P.J. Fleck entering this game.

Minnesota vs. Ohio State Pick: Minnesota +14 (-103)

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