Cougars, Minutemen face must-win situation with both teams fighting for bowl eligibility
Who says independent teams not named Notre Dame have nothing to play for in November? Both BYU and UMass, two FBS Independents, are battling to get to the postseason and becoming bowl eligible.
That wrinkle paired with the fact that UMass defeated BYU on their Senior Day last season in Provo, adds an element that the Cougars probably didn’t expect when they signed this four-game series with the Minutemen. And that's revenge.
BYU and UMass will be playing in Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, so it’ll be a cool experience for both teams to play in the home that Tom Brady (and Bill Belichick) has basically built in Foxborough.
The noon ET games in college football are always a mixed bag in regards to entertainment, but maybe, this battle of the independents could shape up to be a sneaky-fun matchup.
BYU at UMass
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: Eleven Sports/NESN/BYUtv
Spread: BYU -14
Three Things to Watch
1. BYU seeking revenge
Last year’s loss to the Minutemen in Provo spelled the end of the Ty Detmer era as offensive coordinator of the Cougars. The 16-10 setback on BYU's Senior Day gave UMass its first FBS road win as an FBS Independent. Last year’s game had no spirit and no fight on the sidelines from the home team. This year's Cougars are improved but they have to finish games to get wins (still need two to become bowl eligible). They can’t let UMass win consecutive games against them as that would be a big hit to the program and Kalani Sitake’s attempt to repair its image after last year’s disastrous 4-9 season.
2. UMass WR Andy Isabella
In case you missed it last weekend, the Minutemen's senior wideout went off against Liberty for a record-setting 303 yards. UMass beat the Flames 62-59 in triple overtime as Isabella had more receiving yards himself than Liberty had as a team (272). For the season, Isabella's 1,393 receiving yards are not only tops in the nation but it's just 438 fewer than the entire BYU team (1,831) Isabella might be small (5-10) in size but he is a matchup nightmare for his opponents. The Cougars' secondary will be tested by Isabella on Saturday.
3. Two teams looking to go bowling
Both teams sit at four wins entering this game. For UMass the likelihood of going bowling is a long shot because after BYU, the Minutemen go down south to take on No. 5 Georgia between the hedges. For BYU, the Cougars have New Mexico State the week after at home. BYU doesn’t want to be forced into a must-win situation against rival Utah to end the regular season. BYU has lost seven in a row to the Utes, so this game against UMass is of the utmost importance if the Cougars want to get back to the postseason.
BYU’s defense has been playing really well the past two weeks. The Cougars will give up points to a UMass offense that has had little trouble scoring (35.1 ppg, 29th nationally), but don't expect another 60- or even 50-point outburst from the Minutemen. BYU will create enough havoc defensively that will set up short fields for the Cougars' offense led by true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson to have success. BYU gets one win closer to bowl eligibility and covers in the process.
Prediction: BYU 38, UMass 23
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.
(Top photo courtesy of @UMassFootball)