"We're not going to a bowl game, we're not going to the conference championship. We're 2-7. It's all about us now for the rest of the year." Blake Frohnapfel
Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Blake, but the conference championship isn't out of reach yet. The Massachusetts Minutemen will need some very lucky breaks, sure, but they most definitely can win the MAC East and go on to the conference championship game. Let's look at what needs to happen:
1) Bowling Green has to win no more than one of their next four. That includes a matchup on November 12th against Kent State, so let's be honest and say that the Falcons have to lose to Akron, Toledo and Ball State.
2) Akron, per above, has to beat Bowling Green. The Minutemen need to beat the Zips. The other two matchups don't matter as even if Akron goes 5-3, UMass will hold the tiebreaker.
3) The winner of the Miami - Ohio game on November 25th, the last game of the season for each team, cannot win out.
4) UMass has to win out
One of the killers for UMass is that the first tiebreaker is head to head, which means that Miami and Bowling Green already have a leg up. If three teams are tied and are all 1-1 against each other, the second tiebreaker is MAC East record, which UMass, at best, will be 3-2. That probably won't be good enough in most scenerios. I'm sure there's a scenario where every team goes 4-4, but I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole just yet. "We'll keep playing these next three games and we're going to win," said Frohnapfel. If the Minutemen can do that, things might not be so far out of reach.
1) Reading that second Frohnapfel quote makes me shiver, mostly because I remember Matt Hasselbeck also once stating that "We want the ball, and we're gonna score." Feels eerily similar, and the result isn't ideal. Also all quotes were taken from Dan Malone, because credit should always be given when its due.
2) There's not much to take from this game besides what you already know. It was the quintessential UMass gonna UMass game. Frohnapfel, Jean Sifrin, and Tajae Sharpe all had games ranging from fantastic to good. The Minutemen pushed to a lead that they eventually relinquished in the closing minutes. The defense couldn't stop the opposing offense for long stretches. The kicker missed some kicks. I'm not going to bother going into anything specific here, besides reiterating what everyone reiterates every week: UMass really needs a kicker next year. You can't win close games without a kicker.
3) Speaking of close games, UMass is now 0-5 in one score games. Some of that comes from the extenuating circumstance of not having a high school level kicker on the team, but usually teams hover around .500 in one score games, so expect some regression to the mean between the end of this season and next. That doesn't mean they'll win their next five, but it does mean they'll probably go around .500 in future games.
4) Now's the time when everyone worries about Sifrin or Sharpe going to the NFL next season. I'm not really buying it. Another season of production like this might actually push them into one of the top rounds, but neither can probably do enough in just one season (multiple for Sharpe, but one with a competent quarterback) in the MAC to be worth anything but a 6th or 7th round flier. I expect both to stay another year and improve their draft stock.