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Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner: Ohio State at Minnesota

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Ohio State is ranked 128th in the nation in returning production (52%), which is well below the national average (62.6%) from 2014 to 2020.  The Buckeyes lost ten players to the NFL draft (5 offense, 5 defense), including three starting linebackers and star quarterback Justin Fields.

Since 2013, college football teams that enjoyed a plus-1 or better turnover differential the prior year and are breaking in a new quarterback (Ohio State) have suffered a decline of 20.8% (1.8 wins) in win percentage and a 14% decrease against the spread.

Minnesota is ranked 17th in returning production (89%) and possesses an explosive offense anchored by fourth-year starting quarterback Tanner Morgan. Morgan has ample weapons to throw to, including junior wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell and Texas A&M transfer Dylan Wright.

Morgan is joined in the backfield by one of the best running backs in the Big Ten Conference in Mohamed Ibrahim, who set a school record with eight consecutive 100-yard games last season.  The talented junior was named the Big Ten Conference Running Back of the Year after rushing for 1,076 yards and fifteen touchdowns.

Minnesota has one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country with five returning starters (181 career starts!).  Head coach PJ Fleck also brought in a two-year starter from Utah State for added depth to an already loaded offensive line.

The Gophers’ defense returns ten starters and Fleck added two key transfers in Nyles Pinckney (Clemson) and Val Martin (North Carolina State).  Minnesota has enjoyed one of the strongest home-field advantages since 2016, over which time the Gophers have covered the point spread 58.8% of the time.

I have been extremely impressed with Minnesota’s recruiting under coach Fleck.  Over the last five years, the Gophers average recruiting rank is 39.8, which is significantly better than the prior seven year’s ranking (58.3).  Three of the last four recruiting classes under Fleck have ranked 38th in the country.

Finally, my math model favors Ohio State by 13.52 points so getting two touchdowns with a strong home underdog in their season opener provides solid value.  Grab the points with Minnesota as Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner for Thursday, September 2.