Before we get into our matchups for the week, let's talk a bit about the current aura around the Minutemen. For the elite, a loss would mean the end of their bid for the National Championship. For most it's a bump in the road, a bad week that's to be recovered from. For the Minutemen, last week at least, it meant hope. Against a Power 5 team, one that UMass team's of years past would be blown out, the Minutemen went wire to wire. The word's moral victory were thrown around a lot this past week. This isn't the first close loss by the Minutemen, though. Last year, the Minutemen had two one point losses, both followed by blowouts. In 2012, the Minutemen lost by three to Ohio, only to lose by at least 24 the next four games. While a moral victory is nice, the inability to follow it with a good showing keeps a fan base away. With under 15,000 fans showing up to last week's game (which, I believe, what the average attendance needed to get off of NCAA probation last year), the Maroon and White need to give fans something to believe in. If the fans don't believe this team's turned a corner, they'll never show up. Too many years of terrible football has left the base shell shocked. Before the BC game, many said that UMass was treating the game like their Super Bowl. This weekend is the one that really matters. They don't need to win, but they need to prove they can hang with FBS competition. Anything less than a competitive showing might send this team, and the fan base, back to square one.
UMass Offense vs. Vanderbilt Defense:
Who better to lead the charge back to relevance than Blake Frohnapfel. Last week ended our nation's epidemic of bad UMass QB play, with Blake throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns. His AY/A of 6.73 this year is 9th among MAC quarterbacks last year. I said time and time again that if this team had an average MAC quarterback, they could make some waves. Blake is moving up the charts, and his stat line is held back from the BC game. All Blake has to do is keep up his play from last week and we're in business. Helping him make waves was breakout tight end Jean Sifrin. He's a matchup and red-zone nightmare at 6-feet 7-inches. It's going to be a fun two years watching Frohnapfel to Sifrin in the endzone. Trying to stop the Mass Attack is a defense that has given up 78 points in two games. Caleb Azubike does return for the Commodores, though, and he is a fierce pass rusher. Frohnapfel has had issues when pressured, so keeping Azubike at bay is key for the UMass pass attack.
UMass Defense vs. Vanderbilt Offense:
Colorado believed after the game they should've hung 60 on the Minutemen, and they weren't that far from the truth. The pass defense couldn't handle bubble screens for most the game, and couldn't figure out how not to draw penalties on third down at the end. The rush defense bent for the first half, but broke in the second. Both the front seven and the back four will have their shot at redemption against a Vanderbilt offense that has put up just three offensive points through two games. The only real threat on the Commodores is Ralph Webb, who has rushed for 5.2 yards per carry, but has only toted the rock 32 times. If the line can keep him in check, the Commodores will have to rely on one of three quarterbacks. It's usually a good sign when your opponent can't decide which quarterback to start because they're all terrible. Let's hope it comes to this.
Minutemen 27, Commodores 31. Last week I said I wouldn't put more than 14 points on the board for the Mintuemen until I see the offense do something. This week I'm saying I'm not giving the opposition less than 30 points until the defense steps up. Hopefully this causes the defense to step up, the Minutemen win by double digits, and I read about Southwest riots in the morning.