The Massachusetts Minutemen were miserable in the Mid-American Conference, where they had no success at all. They moved to independent status, and they have still had no success. Is this project worth it? Many in and near the school think football at the Division I level is a lost cause. Can this year’s team do anything to change perceptions in Amherst, Massachusetts?
How Did They End 2016
Massachusetts football is a long-term project, not a quick fix. Accordingly, no one should have expected or even hoped for a bowl game last season. The team needed to show it could develop and improve, nothing more. On balance, the team failed to meet that goal. The positive spin is that in the first three weeks of the season, UMass wasn’t that bad. It limited Florida to just 24 points on the road. It then held Boston College to just 26 points at home. The team then won its only game of the season against an FBS opponent, taking down Florida International, 21-13. In three games, UMass had not allowed an opponent to score more than 27 points. Heading into the rest of the season, there was reason for the Minutemen to think they could accomplish a lot on defense and perhaps steal a few games against equally-matched teams.
That did not happen.
The defense steadily got worse as the season continued. UMass allowed 56 points to Louisiana Tech in a midseason game. Then, in the final three games of the season, the roof caved in. The Minutemen gave up 52 to Troy, 51 to BYU, and 46 to Hawaii. The Hawaii game was especially painful because the offense came up with its best performance of the year, scoring 40 points. Just a little contribution from the defense could have made this season better, but the late collapse on that side of the ball created a 2-10 record… and a lack of improvement. That’s the big concern heading into 2017.
Ed Pinkham, who was the defensive coordinator with a very successful (but offensively gifted) Western Michigan team last season, comes to UMass intent on lifting the profile of a defense ranked below 100 in the 130-team FBS. The team also loses three starters from its offensive line, so there is a lot to consider in Amherst before the opener against Hawaii on August 26.
The offensive line isn’t just new; it will be populated by underclassmen who have not collected a lot of experience as starters. It would be one thing if an offensive line was taken over by juniors and seniors who waited their turns, but this is a young line that will have to learn on the job, and that means the learning has to take place at an accelerated rate for this team to be decent.
What To Expect From The Minutemen This Year
The offensive line and the defensive line both appear to be long-term projects and not immediately fixable units. That’s an enormous double limitation on the Minutemen and what they can reasonably expect to accomplish.
Record Last 5 Seasons
Schedule and Outlook
The Minutemen start the season with a home game against Hawaii and then go to Coastal Carolina the week after. They’ll come home to face Old Dominion before going to Temple and Tennessee.
This is a brutal schedule. Remember that an independent schedule will be all over the map since there’s no one conference to contain all 12 opponents. Hawaii in the opener is an important game because Hawaii, if not sharp, could become a beatable opponent. That’s where UMass could steal a win. If the Minutemen don’t get that one, their only two reasonable win chances are Coastal Carolina and Maine. They will not have a chance against any of the power conference teams they play, and non-power teams such as Ohio and Appalachian State, are very good. This is simply not a schedule built for success. The regular season win total for this team sits at just three but it’s hard to pick out four wins for them. Go under.
Regular Season Win Prediction: Under 3
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