Neither Ohio nor UMass is on a hot streak as of late, but both teams have something to salvage as the Minutemen head into Peden Stadium on the final week of the regular season. Ohio comes in with a chance at seven wins and possibly securing a bowl appearance. The Minutemen just want a second MAC win and to finish on a high note.
Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton has struggled for Ohio as of late. The run game has floundered, and the defense has been torn to shreds over the last three games. Tarell Basham, a talented Bobcat defensive end, has been stuck on six sacks for weeks. Formerly big-play defensive backs Devin Bass, Travis Carrie and Xavier Hughes have done little to spark the team in weeks of late. No Bobcat seems capable of making a big play as Ohio has scored just 16 points combined over its last three games.
The Minutemen have at least put up a fight in one-point losses to Western Michigan and Akron (though not at all against Northern Illinois and Central Michigan).
Otherwise, points have been scarce for the Minutemen too, who come in averaging an abysmal 10.6 points per game. Good for, you guessed it: last in the MAC.
It cannot be too fun to be in Charley Molnar's shoes in 2013. Molnar coached offenses that impressed at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame, where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. The man anointed the head of the UMass Minutemen program during it's transition to D-1 football has struggled to win only once each season the last two years. But Molnar has a young team worth looking out for.
UMass's lone victory in 2013 came in a 17-10 victory over Miami. The Minutemen have not won a road game this season.
The Minutemen almost took down the Bobcats a year ago, but ultimately fell, thanks mainly to Beau Blankenship who had a career day. Blankenship, the Oklahoma native, ran for 269 yards and two touchdowns as he cut through the UMass defense.
Quarterback Mike Wegzyn completed 27 passes for 373 yards. Too bad for the Minutemen, he is not playing well enough to give UMass a benefit this year. A.J. Doyle is starting in his place for that matter. Doyle is coming off of a three interception performance against CMU. So, maybe not absurd to think Wegzyn might get the start.
In that win, Ohio advanced to 5-0 for the first time since 1968. This time around, the prospects surrounding the Ohio football program are not anywhere near as exciting. The Bobcats have lost three straight, yielding 123 points over that span.
If UMass is going to pull the upset (albeit not a major one given Ohio's recent play) Doyle is going to have to connect with Rob Blanchflower and Tajae Sharpe quite a few times on Saturday.
Someone out of the backfield is almost certainly going to have to come up big as Jamal Wilson leads the team with only 413 yards on the season. No single UMass player has more than three touchdowns this year and that will certainly have to change on Saturday.
Ohio has to fight to be back at .500 in the MAC. Winning against UMass would put the Bobcats at 7-5 and 4-4 in the MAC. A win would guarantee Ohio its fifth consecutive winning season, something that has come to be expected under Solich. The senior class at Ohio had great aspirations and now, they are trying to merely get another victory before completing their collegiate football career.
UMass is just looking for that elusive second MAC win. A win would also mark the first win for the Minutemen over a winning team in their two years as an FBS program. 41 of the 65 players who have seen time for the Minutemen this season are redshirt sophomores or younger, and such a win has the potential to be a huge building block for a program trying to get on its feet.