Date: Saturday, October 6
Kickoff Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Location: McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, MA
TV: Eleven Sports Network (NESNplus locally in most of New England)
Betting Line: USF -14.5, FPI: 79.6%
Series Record: This is the first meeting between the two schools.
This past week was USF’s bye week.
While teams normally do not like bye weeks being this early, it was absolutely necessary. The Bulls currently are in an offensive rut as they have failed to score more than 30 points in the past two games against lesser competition. After putting 49 up on Georgia Tech, Bulls fans were expecting the same output on a weekly basis. This week hopefully gave them a chance to figure out the miscues.
The other reason was USF having plenty of injury issues to deal with. Jordan Cronkrite was the only healthy running back for USF’s game against ECU. Terrence Horne, who made his name known by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Mitchell Wilcox, who is one of the top receiving tight ends in the country, left the game with an ankle injury. Even Tyre McCants was seen limping off the field. The point being, USF lost a lot of talent to injury and absolutely needed this bye week to recover. While some players are going to be out longer than others, this bye week was a perfect opportunity for players to recover.
This is one of the more intriguing games for USF. While UMass is far from being their hardest opponent, they are very difficult team to read.
The Minutemen have put up 40 or more points in three of their games so far. They have been pretty solid in the passing game as UMass quarterbacks are throwing for eight and a half yards per attempt. The success in the passing game is mostly attributed to Andy Isabella. Isabella is the leading receiver for UMass with 648 yards (198 of these game from the previous game!) and seven receiving touchdowns. Coach Strong describes him as a unbelievably good route runner.
On the ground, the Bulls will have to stop Marquis Young. The senior running back has 73 touches and four rushing touchdowns. While UMass is not nearly as explosive on the ground, this may be there best chance of winning. While USF is pretty good against the run, their pass defense is elite. Therefore, I believe, UMass will have to be successful on the ground if they want any chance of winning.
On the flip side, the Minutemen defense has been atrocious. All you need to do here is look at how many points UMass has given up in their games. The previous game against Ohio proved that an average to above average team can put up massive points on this team. UMass gave up 664 yards which resulted in 58 points for the Bobcats. At this point, I would say that the Minutemen will be exhausted, on defense, heading into this game. Blake Barnett is a much more talented quarterback than Nathan Rourke. Additionally, USF’s surplus of receivers will give UMass DBs trouble. Expect players like Darnell Salomon and Randall St. Felix to have big games.
I personally think this is a high scoring game. Despite UMass being down their head coach, they still have some talented players. I think the bye week was all the Bulls needed to get healthy and solve their woes on offense. Expect USF to run away with it in the second half.
This past week could not have gone worse for the maroon-and-white faithful.
The Ohio Bobcats put up 58 points for the second consecutive year against the UMass defense. The team sank to 0-4 (with four blowouts) on the road this season.
The defense was continually torched on the ground and now ranks seventh worst in FBS, allowing 256.7 yards per game. The pass rush has been toothless as well, creating only five sacks through six games.
UMass also received a large dose of national exposure for all the wrong reasons. Coach Mark Whipple was suspended a week for his insensitive ‘rape’ remark in reference to a perceived blown call during the loss to Ohio.
Defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham will take over the helm for the week.
Last year’s matchup with the Bulls was scrapped after Hurricane Irma cancelled the contest with no conceivable makeup date.
South Florida represents the tallest task for the Minutemen at home this season - a place where they have gone 2-0. However, this is not Duquesne and this is not Charlotte.
Don’t expect much of the offense to change with Pinkham in charge this week. The Minutemen will likely spread the field with Marquis Young in the backfield and look to get the ball to Andy Isabella as many times as possible.
Expect them to use tempo and no huddle at times to try and wear down the Bulls’ starters.
Defensively, as you may have read in the USF preview, the Minutemen might catch a bit of a break defending the run due to injuries.
It doesn’t matter.
It shouldn’t matter.
But, it matters that UMass clog up running lanes on first and second downs and put pressure on their opponents. While the Bulls have weapons, UMass must force long third downs to get off the field and get the crowd into the game early and often.
UMass has been good at home, and I believe the negative national exposure might actually fuel some togetherness in the Minutemen locker room.
The Minutemen have started hot lately. Look for that trend to continue.
The Bulls, however, have just one or two too many playmakers to contain.
USF 45, UMass 38