UMass (1-2, 0-0 FBS Independent) vs FIU (1-1, 1-0 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 15, 7:30 PM
TV: beIN Sports (Mike Gleason & Brett Romberg)
Radio: WAXY 790 The Ticket (A.J. Ricketts & Kenny Kelly)/ WEEI-FM 105.5
Location: Riccardo Silva Stadium, University Park, FL
Betting Line: FIU -4 O/U 60
All-Time Series Record: UMass leads FIU, 2-1. (FIU won last matchup 63-45)
FIU comes into this game riding high after a resilient 28-20 win against Old Dominion.
Quarterback James Morgan started the game 0-5 passing with a fumble. However, he proceeded to go 17-22 for 251 yards and tossed three touchdowns.
Head coach Butch Davis stated that until either Morgan or Christian Alexander separates themselves from one another that they would continue to split reps in games.
But one has to believe that if Morgan starts quickly, Davis will ride him the entire way.
UMass comes in having given up over 300 yards rushing to Georgia Southern, and Boston College had their way with them through the air in week two.
If Morgan can avoid getting off to a slow start as he did in the previous two contests, the Panther offense has more than enough talent to put this one away early.
Look for a steady dose of the FIU run game on early downs to set up the pass.
Panther defensive coordinator Brent Guy will try to find ways for star DE/LB Fermin Silva be able to rush UMass quarterbacks Ross Comis and Andrew Ford.
Anxiousness is colored maroon this week.
Following a decisive 34-13 loss at Georgia Southern last Saturday, the Minutemen must find their offensive rhythm and defensive identity out side of Bryton Barr flying around.
A 1-2 start is not a death sentence for their bowl aspirations, but UMass is in need of a road win to gain their confidence back.
Last year’s contest at Florida International was a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. The Panthers won, 63-45, putting this year’s focus on containing any big-play potential FIU can muster. The 45 points scored does speak, however, to the potential for getting this veteran offensive group back on track.
Andrew Ford and Marquis Young had monster games last year against FIU, meaning the Minutemen want to get their backfield going early, so they are scoring often.
Coach Mark Whipple will have to cook up a defensive gameplan to plug the run. The front seven must do a better job maintaining their gaps. Last year against the Panthers, UMass surrendered six touchdowns on the ground and saw four opponents rush for 70 or more yards.
In three games thus far, UMass is allowing an average of 245.3 yards per game rushing to opponents. That ranks as 115th in all of FBS.
If Ford and Young can get rolling and keep possession, that can go a long way to cover up any flaws stopping the FIU running attack. New wrinkles are needed this week to keep the Panther defense off balance.
If not, expect the maroon to be the color of anxiousness in New England.
Eric: In terms of putting up points the Panther offense has been great this year. However, what I’d like to see are a quick start for Morgan and the run efficiency to improve on early downs. Overall, I see FIU building on last week’s success and winning by a score of FIU 38, UMass 24.
Josh: It will be interesting to see if the not-too-far-away hurricane makes for windy conditions and put a premium on the running game. Look for a much better, bounce-back effort from the Minutemen. However, UMass must prove themselves on the road before any confidence can be drawn from the 2018 squad. FIU 38, UMass 35.