The Massachusetts Minutemen (0-3) are coming off of a drubbing at the hands of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Hoping to turn their fortunes around, they welcome in the Florida International Golden Panthers. Nick Lewis from Underdog Dynasty and I talk about Saturday's game:
Hustle Belt: What is this team's obsession with Alex's?
Underdog Dynasty: While I appreciate your attempt at cleverness, there ain't but two Alex's on the roster. One always has his hands under the center's butt, and the other is always touching those hands, so if we're talking about obsessions... anyways. McGough is hard to get a read on but he will gladly underneath-route you to death. He has only three completions of 30+ yards, and they account for almost 20% of his passing yards through four games. Which tells you something about their ability to stretch the field, 75 yard touchdown against Indiana notwithstanding.
Which leads us to the other Alex, Gardner, the sophomore starting running back. He's a dual threat as the team's leading rusher and either third or fourth receiving option depending on who you ask. He struggled against a strong Louisiana Tech defense last week, but he is a versatile, quick player who can do some damage if you aren't careful.
HB: Who are some other offensive play-makers to be aware of?
UD: So, tight end Jonnu Smith came into this season as pre-season all-conference, but has been pretty quiet so far. He hasn't caught many passes outside of the NCCU game, and hasn't gone downfield much either (two catches longer than 12 yards). Why he isn't used more I don't know, but maybe this is the game it starts happening.
HB: What's Florida's greatest defensive strength?
UD: Well Florida, being an SEC team, is all about team speed on defense. Florida International on the other hand, is suddenly all about Denzell Perine and his ability to get to the quarterback. After recording 6 sacks and 9.5 TFL last year, he's on pace for 9 and 13 this season, respectively, and that isn't all against NCCU either. He's the guy that attempts to lead the charge to take the pressure off the secondary, though they and their four interceptions can hold their own.
HB: How can the Minutemen beat FIU?
UD: Well, this is an unfortunate mismatch. As far as I know, UMass is still pretty damn good at passing the ball, and pretty damned "the opposite" at running it, while FIU is very respectable against the pass (as I mentioned above) and not so much against the run. That said, UMass has scored 64 points already, and FIU is probably in between the last two defenses you played. If you can manage to match your point total from the last two weeks, you should be alright.
HB: Will FIU become UMass's first non-conference casualty, or will the Golden Panthers beat up on another winless team?
UD: I'm going with 31-23 UMass. Florida International has a good but not great defense (just like every team you've played so far) and their offense struggles like a kitten in a knapsack. That, and Ron Turner will inevitably overcoach away some points. Count on it.