Date: Saturday, Aug. 25
Kickoff Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, Massachusetts
Watch it here: Eleven Sports Network, NESNplus (New England)
Hear it here: WEEI 105.5 (Springfield, MA), WJAS 1320 (Pittsburgh)
Line: UMass -23
Series: First ever meeting
At last, we arrive at Week Zero.
The Minutemen get the honor of being the first FBS team to officially kickoff the 2018 season this Saturday, as a season of bountiful optimism begins.
UMass hosts FCS member Duquesne with a chance to continue last season’s second half momentum. After starting 2017 with an 0-6 record, the Minutemen look to shake off any notion of starting deep in the hole. Starting 1-0 should serve as an instant pick-me-up and diminish any fears of a slow start.
With a home crowd behind them, UMass needs to hit the accelerator hard in the first half. That means plenty of opportunities for Andrew Ford to spread the ball around to his talented wideouts and establish the running game with Marquis Young.
As for the Minutemen defense, the key - as it will be all season - is getting production from a fairly unseasoned defensive line. Enough pressure up front will keep the Dukes scrambling in their own backfield. Feels like a strong 12-tackle game for Bryton Barr. Just a hunch.
If the Minutemen defense can give Ford a short field, expect the official scorer to get a workout.
Meet the Dukes
UMass fans are familiar with Duquesne from their contests in the Atlantic 10 in essentially every other sport. Saturday, however, marks the first time the two schools will link up on the gridiron.
Duquesne has been the class of the Northeast Conference, winning at least a share of four conference titles since 2011. The Dukes finished 7-4, but were denied a third straight NEC championship last season, giving them plenty of motivation for redemption.
The Minutemen will need all hands on deck containing running back A.J. Hines, who won the Jerry Rice Award last year as the best freshman in the FCS. The Dukes also have a quality receiver in Nehari Crawford.
The offense, however, is a question mark. The starting quarterback job is still up in the air between veteran backup Brett Brumbaugh and Florida Atlantic transfer Daniel Parr.
On defense, First Team All-NEC safety Abner Roberts is one of the standouts, who must contend with the UMass offensive attack. The Dukes must get consistent play from the rest of their secondary to have a shot this weekend.
Head coach Jerry Schmitt enters his 14th season at Duquesne.
Some early glitches are likely, but depth will push UMass with a second half surge.
UMass 41, Duquesne 20