Date: Saturday, Oct. 20
Kickoff Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, MA
Watch it here: Eleven Network (NESNplus for most of New England)
Line: UMass -3, O/U: 71.5
Series: Coastal Carolina 1-0 (defeated UMass 38-28 last year)
A fresh start for UMass
The 2-5 Minutemen had a whirlwind last few weeks on the football field, with a pair of 58-42 losses and an off-the-field media nightmare fueled by comments made by coach Mark Whipple.
Getting away from the field was very necessary.
The Minutemen need to re-channel themselves from last year, when they turned around an 0-6 start with a 4-2 finish after a long rest.
More specifically, UMass needs to refocus on how it approaches stopping the run. Run-spread options lead to large chunks of yards allowed and the defensive line has been ineffective rushing the quarterback.
Installing a new defensive scheme mid-season would be madness, but Coach Whipple must find a way to counter opponents at the line and put them in 3rd and long. Coastal Carolina has a talented, but under-rated running back in Marcus Outlow. The senior has run for 577 yards and seven touchdowns on 100 carries thus far. That includes breaking 100 yards and a score last week against UL Monroe.
UMass must trust its defensive backs to cover the Chanticleer receivers one-on-one and stack the box as much as possible.
Offensively, it sounds strange to tell a 2-5 team to not change much...but really...don’t change much. The Minutemen behind receiver Andy Isabella have put up 40 or more points in five of their seven games.
Is Coastal bowl material?
Last year’s 38-28 win for the Chanticleers marked the team’s very first win as an FBS school, in what was perhaps the biggest real moment for Coastal Carolina football last season.
The 2018 team looks much improved, despite a couple of recent losses to Sun Belt competition. At 3-3, Chanticleer fans can even begin to dream of a potential bowl invite, if they can find a way to finish 6-6. The Sun Belt does have five bowl spots available.
Coastal will need this game as a win to make that dream possible in their first year of bowl eligibility. They have three brutal road games against the top teams in their conference left to play.
Getting Outlow going early is a key. Coastal is Top 30 in the country in third down conversion percentage. Keeping the chains and the game clock moving to keep the potent Minutemen offense on the sidelines will be crucial.
However, stopping UMass running back Marquis Young will be just as important. If Coastal can make the Minutemen one dimensional, the offense will still score points, but can be contained.
Beyond that, expect a refocused Minutemen squad to remember the loss from last year and rally around all the negativity that has been buzzing around western Massachusetts for the past few weeks.
I smell a nail-biter, but with UMass playing such much more competitively with the home fans behind them, a late touchdown will put this game away for the home team.