Stay calm, UMass faithful. UMass football hasn't entered the darkest timeline, not yet anyway. After getting blown out by the Colorado Buffaloes, a game which many thought could go UMass's way, the Minutemen will probably enter part two of a three game losing streak tomorrow against Temple. While I could do my normal preview, break down reasons to worry: the defense being invisible, the miscues on offense, the sketchy play-calling, and try to find reasons they can win: if Blake Frohnapfel gets his timing down, Tajae Sharpe is still amazing, instead let's talk about what an oh-fer-three start means for the Minutemen.
The Minutemen's bowl hopes were thin to start the season, as they probably needed seven wins. In the season preview, I saw one win in the first trimester, one in the second, and possibly four in the third, which would leave them at six. In order to get that seventh, stealing a win against Colorado would be a huge boon. With this loss, UMass now must now steal a win against Toledo, Ball State or Bowling Green while still sweeping their final four games, and handle FIU at home. This is no small feat. After the Colorado debacle, the Mintuemen's FPI per ESPN has them favored in just four games this season. Three of those games (Kent State, Akron, Miami) the Minutemen are heavily favored (>60%). One of those games (EMU) is a toss-up (between 40-60%). FIU, which was once labeled a UMass win, now also falls into the same range of toss-up. If the Minutemen's bowl hopes were thin to begin with, they're hanging on by a thread now.
Meanwhile, winning the MAC East is still in play. The Minutemen got a gift from the MAC gods in their final year as they only have to play one of the big three in the MAC West (NIU, Toledo, WMU). Meanwhile, Bowling Green has to play both Toledo and WMU. If the Minutemen get their wins were they are favored and upset BGSU, and the Falcons lose to the MAC West powers, that leaves each team at 5-3 in the MAC East and UMass with the tiebreaker. Now, upsetting the Falcons on the road is not likely, as right now the Falcons are 80% favorites, but stranger things have happened. A 5 to 6 win season and a MAC East title isn't out of the question right now.
Of course, the high hopes of a MAC East title depend on the Minutemen not being the team we saw on Saturday against the Buffaloes. The hope this season was the defense would turn it around because they were another year older, but ignored the fact that they were still fundamentally the same players; The offense would be dominant, but ignored the fact that most MAC teams were already returning lethal QB-WR duos as well who would also be a year older and more experienced; That the team would be on level with Bowling Green, despite the fact that Bowling Green had proven themselves while these Minutemen were all just a collection of hopeful preseason articles talking about breakthroughs and high ceilings. While the hope remains in me, at least, that these Minutemen can reach those ceilings, we won't find anything out until the first Saturday in October, because the Minutemen are in the middle of a three game losing streak.