Analyzing Possible December Opponents For UMass

The UMass Minutemen have had one of the oddest seasons ever, even in such an odd year like 2020. The Minutemen shut down football operations in August, only to decide to play a limited slate in September. The Minutemen have played three games only scoring 12 points, while allowing 116, and come into their Black Friday game against Liberty as 40 point underdogs. Yet, there are still opportunities for more games in the final weeks of the season, if UMass wants to take advantage of extra practices and more TV time.

Possible AAC Opponents

Starting with the American, the Minutemen can schedule three of the league’s bottom feeding schools with each game looking winnable. USF’s last scheduled game is on Black Friday, in the War on I-4, as it looks like the American has chosen not to reschedule their postponed game with Navy from this Saturday.

The Bulls are 1-7 on the season with their only win coming against Citadel in their opening game. The Minutemen have played USF once, in 2018, when the 4-0 Bulls came to McGuirk Alumni Stadium and won a 58-42 shootout with Jordan Cronkrite running for 302 yards on only 23 carries.

Another possible opponent out of the American is East Carolina, who also plays their last scheduled game this weekend against SMU. The Pirates are 2-6 with wins over USF and Temple, both one-win schools, so like USF this game is winnable for the Minutemen. Also, their only meeting came in the 1964 Tangerine Bowl, in a game ECU won 14-13, which gives UMass an excuse to break out these throwback helmets if they play.

The last possible AAC opponent is the Temple Owls, who have yet to play a non-conference game, and sit at 1-6 for the season. This might be the most logical of opponents given their proximity to Amherst,. Since the Owls have seemingly reverted to their Big East-level ineptitude this year, UMass might have an opportunity to avenge their 2015 and 2017 heartbreakers to the Owls.

Possible C-USA Opponents

While COVID-19 has hit no conference harder than Conference USA, some teams actually still have room on their schedules for non conference games. The first team is Western Kentucky who has had no postponements and sit at 4-6 for the year.

While the Hilltoppers play in an odd Tuesday morning game on December 1st against Charlotte, they have open dates on December 5th and 12th, although the 12th is likely more preferable. The Hilltoppers and Minutemen have never played and this game could give WKU a chance to get a key 6th win to make them more attractive to C-USA’s bowl partners.

Another opponent out of C-USA is UTSA, who sits at 6-4 and has their last scheduled game against North Texas this Saturday. Their game against Rice was postponed, but will likely not get rescheduled as Rice has other rescheduled games in the first two weeks of December. UMass has never met UTSA on the gridiron, and adding this game could give UTSA another win to pad their record heading into bowl season.

Middle Tennessee is yet another option, sitting at 3-6 with only a game scheduled against FAU this Saturday and a game against Charlotte yet to be rescheduled. That game looks to be played on the 12th as Charlotte plays FIU on the 5th, leaving the Blue Raiders open on the first weekend of December. The Blue Raiders have never played the Minutemen and like Western Kentucky, adding this game could give them a chance to boost their attractiveness for a bowl.

The last option is Louisiana Tech, who has not played since Halloween and sits at 4-3. They had their last scheduled game at FIU cancelled this week, and have other games against Rice and North Texas postponed. With Rice having both weekends booked, as mentioned earlier, and North Texas likely having December 5th open, December 12th looks like a target date for this game.

UMass and Louisiana Tech have met twice before, with Tech winning both meetings, 56-28 in 2016 and 69-21 in 2019. Of note, in the 2016 game, Carlos Henderson did this to the UMass defense in Gillette Stadium:

Sun Belt Opponents

Three options exist for UMass out of the Sun Belt, Texas State, Georgia State, and South Alabama. Texas State’s last game is this weekend against Coastal Carolina, so they have the first two weeks in December open. The one obstacle? The NCAA. Believe it or not, the Bobcats have played 11 games without a cancellation, so they might not be able to add a 13th game against UMass.

But what’s the issue with letting a 2-win team playing an extra game with all the upheaval with schedules this year? Surely, the NCAA will have a heart and allow the Minutemen to meet for the first time.

Georgia State sits at 4-4 with only Modern Day Hate, against Georgia Southern this weekend, left on the schedule. Only their game against Charlotte has been postponed, leaving at least one date open for the Minutemen in December. The Panthers could use this first meeting against the Minutemen to even their record and increase their attractiveness to the Sun Belt’s bowl partners.

The last option for the Minutemen is a game against South Alabama who has a 3-6 record. he Jaguars have games against Arkansas State and Troy the next two weeks, with an open date on the 12th. Like Western Kentucky and many other schools mentioned above, South Alabama can add UMass to bolster their bowl resume. The Jaguars and Minutemen have yet to meet on the gridiron.

As we can see, UMass has a litany of options available to round out their short slate. While extra practices and more television appearances are great, the chance for a confidence boost with a win is something Walt Bell’s program desperately needs. Plus, more football is definitely a plus for any fan, even if it involves a winless UMass team.

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