This week will be the last week without football until February. So why not look ahead to some college football. First, we’ll start off with the only division one independent in New England. The Umass Minutemen.
Last year, the Minutemen finished 4-8 but that record didn’t reflect the overall team. This team had some rather interesting games last year that provided plenty of drama. Even though they started the season 0-6 they finished strong going 4-2 and were just two games away from being bowl eligible. Their most notable game last year was on the road against Tennessee and nearly pulled off an incredible upset win over the Volunteers but lost 17-13.
Marquis Young lead the Minutemen in rushing a season ago with 982 yards and 9 td’s. This year, Young looks to prove that he’s one of the nation’s best backs. He landed a spot on Phil Steele’s pre-season all independent first team, and the Doak Walker watch list. He’s very comparable to a James White, good on his feet and can catch out of the backfield. And he’s an amazing kick returner as well.
If that wasn’t good enough, they also return their quarterback Andrew Ford. Ford last year threw for 2,924 yards with 22 td’s to just 4 int’s. He’s on the Davey O’ Brien National Quarterback award watch list as well and will certainly look to Young for help this season. And it gets better, he’ll also have his favorite target in Andy Isabella back too. Isabella is a Biletnikoff award watch list player who had 1,020 yards and 10 td’s just a year ago. UMass is returning key players at skill positions this year and look for them all to have breakout senior seasons.
8/25 vs. Duquense
9/1 @ Boston College
9/8 @ Georgia Southern
9/15 @ FIU
9/22 vs. Charlotte
9/29 @ Ohio
10/6 vs. USF
10/20 vs. Coastal Carolina
10/27 @ UConn
11/3 vs. Liberty
11/10 vs. BYU
11/17 @ Georgia
UMass Bowl Contenders?
Certainly a tough schedule again for UMass, especially three tough road games at the beginning of the year starting with BC who has a Heisman candidate at running back in A.J. Dillon. Then they travel to Georgia Southern which is the team they beat last year for their first win in 2017 and end it with FIU. Watch out for this UMass team because they certainly have the ability to turn some heads this season.
The season tone will be set early on in week two when they match up with Boston College at Alumni Stadium. If they can make that game interesting then you should start believing in this team. But if A.J. Dillon, Anthony Brown, and co. have a field day with them you shouldn’t panic but it just means that they aren’t quite there yet. Don’t expect UMass to win but crazier things have happened.
Head coach Mark Whipple has nearly all of his stars back this season. He must now prove what he can do with his great talent. If UMass plays to the level that they’re capable of, then this team can win 7, maybe 8 games this season. And if Whipple can lead this team to those wins and get back to a bowl game and perhaps win one, that’ll put UMass football back on the map. It’s extremely important for UMass to get back on the map simply because of Boston College. If UMass and BC can establish a rivalry then maybe college football will make a return up here.
–Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)