It’s an art form, really.
Filling out a long-term FBS football schedule has its share of challenges. It’s a unique challenge when you’re an Independent school such as UMass.
Pro: Flexibility to say ‘yes’ to all sorts of schools without being bogged down by conference opponent commitments.
Con: Difficulty obtaining a ‘yes’ during middle-to-end portion of season when almost everyone else is storming through their own conference schedule.
And then there is the question of whom to ask. All schedules are filled out years in advance, so schools need to take an educated guess as to what schools could be a draw.
With the Minutemen recently inking a six-year series with Buffalo last month, it got the wheels turning on other potential series UMass fans may like to see.
A few thing I kept in mind doing this exercise…
- The 2019 and 2020 schedules are filled up, and two spots remain for the 2021 slate of games, so much of this wish list would be for 2022 and beyond
- Making no long-term scheduling changes for the next year or so could be intentional, in case UMass is hopeful to join a conference in the next decade
- When considering schools, I am mostly looking at:
- Any history between schools
- Relative-regional schools that make sense
- Chances to get national exposure
- Games that can double as a recruiting pitch
Before those five teams, here are a few teams UMass has on the schedule, but should keep adding…
They are the most obvious “rival.”
Sign us up for the next 50 years and don’t look back.
October 10, 2020, UMass gets the Owls at home. And that’s it, for now.
Temple represents the only real FBS squad that has big-time rivalry roots to the Atlantic-10 days in other sports. Combined with UConn, a regular contest would also give the Minutemen two games against the conference that has to be on top of their realistic wish list—the AAC.
And now, the wish list for teams with no agreement in place, but would make for good football and/or good program-building situations for the Minutemen.
Here they are in dramatic 5-to-1 order:
The state of Florida has yielded some quality prospects on the Minutemen roster.
Let’s keep those Florida ties coming to deepen the recruiting presence down south.
The Minutemen’s lone trip to The Swamp also provided some drama in the 2016 opener. The Minutemen trailed 10-7 at halftime and were in a one-score game with the Gators midway through the fourth quarter before finally relenting.
It’s a bucket list-ish place to tell recruits you are going here as well.
Technically, the Terrapins qualify as one of the closest possible destinations for UMass to travel to in FBS.
Maryland would offer UMass an upgrade over Rutgers in terms of reaching the Big Ten portion of the country. With new coach Walt Bell at the helm, the Terrapins could see interest reconnecting with their former offensive coordinator.
A two-for-one on campus deal would work well, as the Terrapins would be one of the bigger draws to come to McGuirk.
3. Notre Dame
Their pseudo-affiliation with the ACC and all-time rivalries with USC, Navy and Michigan make this a difficult ask.
Regardless, trips to South Bend every few seasons or so would be nice incentive for recruits to consider.
We know that Notre Dame has interest in adding a 13th game to its schedule with loopholes. The Minutemen are one of the teams that would have to be involved in said loophole that would involve the weakest conference championship game in the history of conference championships.
Still, as a fellow Independent, UMass has scheduling flexibility most schools don’t have.
2. Georgia Southern
Maybe reliving the glory days of a championship 20+ years ago is not attractive, but UMass is working with limited history with current FBS opponents.
The Minutemen did defeat the Eagles in their biggest football game ever in program history to win the 1AA national title in 1998. Georgia Southern got revenge on the Minutemen the following season en route to the first of their own back-to-back national championships.
The two teams renewed their engagement over the past two seasons, with each team bludgeoning the other (UMass in 2017, Georgia Southern in 2018) that acted as marquee wins that spring-boarded each to finish on strong seasons.
At the very least, let’s get them signed up for a rubber match.
OK, so much for relative-regional considerations here.
Too much upside here, though.
It’s just about the longest any team in FBS would ever have to travel for a game.
But for UMass, it’s worth revisiting.
Playing Hawaii offers a few unique perks UMass took advantage of in 2016 and 2017. First, they got to have two games played in “Week Zero” to give them a larger national audience to themselves.
Also, as a team that does not have a conference championship game or pedigree that screams “bowl season!” quite yet, but the ability to tell recruits that regardless of how things turn out, you’ll be going to Hawaii for a week or so is a nice Ace up your sleeve.
On top of that, the recent games were highly entertaining. And isn’t that reason enough?