The Minnesota Golden Gophers will get the new season started with a home game against the Buffalo Bulls. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST on Thursday, August 31st at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

Oddsmakers currently have the Gophers listed as a 26.5-point home favorite with a total of 52 points. Early money has driven this line in favor of the Bulls, as this line opened at Minnesota -28. Click here for more Week 1 betting odds.

Minnesota vs Buffalo Vegas Game Odds & Betting Preview

The Golden Gophers will once again debut a new head coach, as Tracy Claeys lasted just one season on the job. Claeys did manage to get Minnesota to a 9-4 record, which included a 17-12 upset of Washington St in their bowl game. The new face of the program is PJ Fleck, who did a remarkable job in his 4 years at Western Michigan. This past season he led the Broncos to a 13-0 record and New Year’s Six Bowl bid (lost to Wisconsin in Cotton Bowl).

Fleck will take over a team that returns just 12 starters and has to replace a 4-year starter at QB. It’s going to be interesting to see if his “Row the Boat” theme will work at a new location. Early indications are that the players are 100% buying in, but will it result in wins right away?

The Bulls haven’t had a lot to get excited about. Buffalo went just 2-10 this past season and are now 7-17 in the first two years under head coach Lance Leipold. No need to hit the panic button just yet, as this wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround. The Bulls have had just two winning seasons in the last 18 years.

Buffalo returns 14 starters. But have to replace a 1,000-yard rusher and their top 3 receivers from an offense that managed just 16.5 ppg. Still there is some optimism on that side of the ball. They really like sophomore QB Tyree Jackson, who is a dual threat with a big arm. Defensively this team has to improve against the run, as they gave up 253 ypg (5.1 yards/carry) last year.

College Football Free ATS Selection: Buffalo +26.5

If I had to take a side in this one right now, I would have to lean towards the Bulls catching almost 4 touchdowns. The public loved backing Fleck and the Broncos last year. I have to think those that play this one will side with Minnesota. It’s extremely hard for the public to back a team like Buffalo that won just 2-games last year.

I know a lot of people think Fleck’s style of coaching is a bit silly at times, but you can’t argue with the results. With that said, I don’t think it’s going to be instant success with the Gophers. Keep in mind he went a mere 1-11 in his first year on the job with Western Michigan, before going 29-11 the next 3 seasons.

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What people overlook is that with a big change at head coach often comes new schemes on both sides of the ball. That’s the case here. Not to mention they are going to have an inexperienced signal caller starting.

While Minnesota is adapting, Buffalo is now in year three under Leipold. If Jackson takes that next step, this team is going to be a lot more competitive than people think. Leipold has done a nice job of improving the talent and developing it. There’s a lot of juniors and seniors on this roster that figure to be poised to take a big step forward.

Another thing you can’t overlook with Minnesota and their 9-4 record last year was the soft schedule. They had just one win in the regular season versus a team that finished with a winning record. That was a 31-24 win at home against Colorado State.

Yes they beat a good Washington State team in their bowl, but the Cougars clearly didn’t come to play. Keep in mind that there was talk Minnesota might boycott that game.