A few more questions came trickling in after last week’s mailbag, and we thank you for sending them our way. I definitely plan on getting to all of these during college football’s “down time,” so please don’t hesitate to send more our way (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After watching Charley Molnar‘s live feed today on UMassAthletics, I’ve been thinking about taking a similar approach. Then again, that would require you to look at my face as I answer these questions, which just can’t be good for anyone involved.
Today’s question comes from reader Andrew Perry.
I’m curious if you have an opinion on what we can expect for UMass Football wins in the next 2 years. I asked Coach Molnar if he had win-total goals and as I expected, he didn’t want to name any numbers.
It seems to me that we will be a much better team next year, between the solid recruiting class and the group of continuing players being more experienced – and having had another year in the weight room. We lost Perry McIntyre and a few other players but not too much overall. So I’m predicting 3 wins in 2013. And in 2014, there will be 3 years of 1A recruits on the team, including 2/3 that aren’t 1st year players; so I am hoping for 5 wins in 2014. Do you think that my predictions are on target ?
After UMass got run over by Central Michigan, I sat around in the photographers’ trailer outside Gillette and tried to envision what the future held for the Minutemen.
Week after week, UMass was pushed around and absolutely decimated at the point of attack. Teams like Buffalo and Western Michigan – hardly FBS world-beaters – bullied the Maroon and White into submission. Meanwhile, the quarterback situation felt unsettled, the running back position was patchwork, there was still an ongoing kicker duel, and, aside from Gronkflower, there was little to be excited for at receiver.
I couldn’t create a scenario in which the Minutemen improved. The heart of the offensive line (Stephane Milhim) was moving on, and so to was the soul of the defense (Darren Thellen). Oh yea, and the leading rusher (Mike Cox), receiver (Deion Walker) and tackler (Perry McIntyre) were also on their way out.
How could this team – strewn with youth and now devoid of statistical leaders – win more than one game?
The answer, I suppose, is fairly simple:
Next season there will likely be more than 40 new names on the UMass football roster. The assortment of 25 scholarship athletes, walk-ons and preferred walk-ons will lend immediate assistance to a program that was frequently short-staffed last year. There will be new bodies on the offensive line, speedy receivers to challenge for playing time and a posse of linebackers that appear ready and willing to make an impact early.
As we saw last year, first-year players will take their lumps, but they can also step in and turn some heads (See: Kassan Messiah, Joey Colton, Jovan Santos-Knox, etc.).
With this phalanx on fresh faces coupled with last year’s impressive crop of first-year players, the Minutemen should be athletically closer to their competition. Of course, UMass fans won’t exactly get a chance to really gauge this out of the gates. Wisconsin, while a team in transition, is still very much a Big 10 power, with Big 10 athletes at a very formidable Big 10 facility. The Minutemen may come out of that game mentally tougher, but they will not leave Madison victors.
Maine should be a win. The Black Bears are a decent FCS team, but their last two classes aren’t near the same level as UMass’. I don’t want to jinx the Minutemen here, but anything less than 1-1 after Week 2 would be an absolute throat-punch to the program.
From there, I can see two or three more wins on the calendar. Namely, I think Miami (OH) and Akron can be beaten. The Redhawks lose Zac Dysert and were a pretty underwhelming team even with him under center. The Zips are rebuilding, and I think the Minutemen are just a little further along in the process.
Out of the rest of the games, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if UMass upset Central Michigan. Other than that, I think it’s a pretty tough draw. Ohio, NIU and Buffalo all return their marquee players. Bowling Green may have the best mid-major defense in the country. Then there’s Western Michigan, and until I see the Minutemen pierce that crazy beehive defense the Broncos run, I can’t envision them winning.
In 2014, I expect this team to be significantly bigger and better. I also think the Minutemen can and should win their first game against an BCS-conference opponent. Here is the out-of-conference slate as it stands:
8/30/14 – Boston College
9/6/14 – Colorado
9/20/14 – at Penn State
10/4/14 – at Vanderbilt
Boston College and Colorado are both in the beginning stages of rebuilding, and Penn State is on the cusp of feeling the burn from the Sandusky sanctions. Colorado, in particular, is horrendously down right now, and it may take more than a few recruiting cycles for the Buffaloes to become respectable. If UMass’ trajectory is upward, going 1-3 in these games would be respectable and expected.
From there, it all depends on the MAC schedule. The Minutemen will probably face Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Ball State and Toledo, but that leaves four spots. If the scheduling gods are particularly friendly and give the Minutemen another round of Akron, Buffalo, Central Michigan and Miami (OH), I can see 2014 being a year where a bowl game is not out of the realm of possibilities.
That is, ya know, unless UMass is in the New Big East, Big 10, ACC or playing “semi-pro” football at that point.
Follow Bob on twitter: @BobMcGovernJr