As we continue our march towards the beginning of the college football season, here's a look at our upcoming opponents. First up, the Massachusetts Minutemen.
The UMass 2013 Season In Review
You don't have to tell people around here how messy it got for the Minutemen in 2013. They won one game (against Miami of Ohio), was outscored 396-140, and finished close to last in almost every statistical category. Their biggest weakness in 2013 was their offensive which finished 124th in the country in points scored, averaging only 11 per game. To be fair to UMass it was only their second season in FBS play, so a steep learning curve was expected. However things went from bad to worse during the offseason as the MAC decided to remove their membership after the 2015 season. The program did get some good news when they fired Charlie Molnar and rehired Mark Whipple, the coach who brought UMass to a championship in 1998.
The Minuteman Offense
There should be a change in style this year from Charlie Molnar's fast pace offense that clearly wasn't working to a more Pro-QB Style approach under Mark Whipple. There will be a battle this summer for the starting quarterback position between A.J. Doyle and transfer graduate student Blake Frohnapfel who is coming over from Marshall. Last year Doyle split snaps with Mike Wegzyn (who transfered to Tennessee), and finished the season completing 125 passes for 1274 yards, six touchdowns and eleven interceptions, with a 54% completion percentage. Doyle threw multiple interceptions in six of the eleven games he played in. One of the few statistics that UMass did well at however was sacks allowed, they only allowed 15. However this number may be skewed because the Minutemen were a more run oriented team (105th in pass attempts).
But as hard as UMass tried to establish a run, they still finished the season 105th in the country in total rushing yards last season. Their rushing attack never really showed up in 2013 as they averaged 3.5 yards a carry. Much of this had to do with spreading the ball around to a bunch of inexperienced backs who never got into much of a rhythm. Jamal Wilson led the team in rushing, with 368 total yards (or what Andre Williams' game against NC State). The Minutemen also lost their third leading rusher as freshmen RB Stacey Bedell transferred to Stony Brook. Lorenzo Woodley, who chose UMass over a handful of other FBS schools is a name to look out for this season as well as he tries to battle back from injuries.
Easily the name that BC fans should look out for on UMass is junior wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. The Piscataway New Jersey native lead the team in receptions last year with 61 receptions for 680 yards and four touchdowns. Against a BC team that struggled against the pass, he could have a big game.
The Minuteman Defense
If you just look at statistics, BC and UMass weren't that far apart in terms of defensive statistics in 2013. For instance they had the 45th ranked passing defense in the country. Then again when UMass played against Power Conference teams their defense looked much more pedestrian. They allowed 405 yards against Vanderbilt (not bad), 456 against Kansas State (ouch) and 598 against Wisconsin (super ouch). UMass finished the season 98th in the country in points allowed (33.0).
UMass is facing a similar situation to BC with most of their pass rushers having graduated over the past season. Between Justin Anderson, Brandon Potvin, and Galen Clemons, UMass lost 7 of their 12 sacks they pulled in last year. The losses will be felt in the secondary as well, as 4 of their 8 interceptions belong to players that are no longer with the team, however Paul Myerberg believes that the Minutemen still have a secondary in the Top 1/3 of the MAC.
UMass will be switching to a 3-4 defense, which may help alleviate some of the pressure of all the personnel losses they faced after the end of the 2013 season. Stanley Andre should be the name that everyone is aware of on defense as he led UMass with tackles last season (111). He's a dynamic linebacker that appears to be the heart of the defense, and has a good nose for the football.
Where BC Should Be Successful
The offensive line, if it plays like it did last year should be able to assert it's will against a UMass defensive line that not only struggled last year, but it is very green this year. If BC can control the line of scrimmage I would expect Myles Willis to have a big game, Tyler Murphy to break off a few bootlegs and even see some of the freshmen running backs (Marcus Outlow, Jonathan Hilliman) or Tyler Rouse to make some big plays.
Where BC May Struggle
As mentioned above, UMass has a relatively strong secondary, and I am not completely sold on BC's passing game. Tyler Murphy was inconsistent at best last year in Florida, and the Eagles have a patchwork of question marks at wide receiver. The key for BC will to be prevent this weakness from translating into turnovers. If Murphy throws interceptions early, that could energize UMass, something Steve Addazio and Co will want to prevent at all costs.
Wayyyyyyy Too Early Prediction
Boston College 38, UMass 17. As much as some would like to see BC going out and hucking the ball around, I expect BC to utilize their running attack to assert their will against the Minutemen. I wouldn't be surprised if the game starts off close, maybe due to the BC defense making a mistake or blowing a coverage, but after halftime the Eagles should be able to physically control the game.