The UMASS Minutemen have faced a difficult September schedule to say the least. With games against Wisconsin and Kansas State so far (both losses), the team was hoping to settle down and gain confidence before the MAC season opened in October. That will not be the case, however, as this Saturday offers a dangerous opponent in the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Vanderbilt defeated the Minutemen last season 49-7 in Nashville and has been putting up impressive numbers offensively so far this season. The Commodores are 1-2, but both of their losses have come at the hands of SEC opponents (Ole Miss and South Carolina).
The Commodores have a solid head coach in James Franklin and play well within their system. The Commodores are averaging 32.7 points per game and have a good quarterback in Austyn Carta-Samuels. Samuels has completed 58.8 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He will look to star wide receiver Jordan Matthews against the Minutemen.
Matthews was an All-SEC selection entering the season and has big-play ability. Matthews is on a blistering pace with 24 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns. The Commodores have an underrated offensive line that opens up big holes for the running game.
Look for the Commodores to implement a run-heavy offensive attack against UMASS this weekend. UMASS is surrendering 323 rushing yards per game in 2013. Commodore running backs Wesley Tate and Jerron Seymour could find the end zone multiple times, and the Minutemen will have to take chances by selling out against the run.
If the Minutemen are to pull off the upset and stun the Commodores, they will need to control the time of possession. UMASS has struggled offensively in their first three games. The Minutemen are ranked 102 and 109 nationally in both passing and rushing. They are 126th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging seven points per game.
The pressure has fell on an inexperienced offensive line that must give quarterback A.J. Doyle time in the pocket. Making his first start last weekend, Doyle completed 67.7 percent of his passes but turned the ball over two times with costly interceptions.
The running game will be crucial to opening up the play-action passing game. The Minutemen are averaging 95.67 rushing yards per game, and need to improve on that number this weekend. Freshman running back Stacey Bedell has been a pleasant surprise to the offense with 209 rushing yards and one touchdown.