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UMass Minutemen vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction

Fred Warner

Fred Warner

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A pair of independent programs square off Saturday afternoon in Provo, Utah, for not a whole lot at stake other than pride. But it would be a great source of pride for either UMass (3-7) or BYU (3-8) to notch their fourth win of the season after the ups and downs both squads have experienced this season.

This is the second of a four-game series between the two independent schools. The next two meetings will take place in Foxborough at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, in 2018 and ‘19.

UMass at BYU

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: BYUtv

Spread: BYU -4.5

Three Things to Watch

1. BYU QB Joe Critchlow earns his second consecutive start

The Cougars have a long storied history of excellent quarterback play. The 2017 season has not added a new chapter to the story, but fans got a jolt of excitement from a walk-on signal-caller from Tennessee by the name of Joe Critchlow. Critchlow, a true freshman who was serving an LDS mission just five months ago, earned his first start of his career last week against UNLV. Critchlow was effective by throwing for 160 yards and more importantly zero interceptions en route to the Cougars’ first road win of the season. What will the follow-up act now be for everyone’s favorite QB in Cougar Town?

2. Senior day for BYU

The Cougars will honor 20 seniors before the game on Saturday. The highlights include linebacker Fred Warner who projects to be a late-round NFL draft pick and center Tejan Koroma, who has played in every game of his BYU career.

The positive for BYU is that with all the injuries the Cougars have experienced (36 players in total) many young guys who return in 2018 earned valuable playing time that they will hopefully build from.

3. UMass has the “most complex” offense BYU will see this year

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki had high praise for UMass’ offense saying it’s the most complex offense the Cougars will see this entire season. The Minutemen are 35th in the nation in total offense (434.7 ypg) this season and quarterback Andrew Ford (above, right) has a pair of good running backs behind him in Marquis Young and Malik Lee. BYU’s defense has been pedestrian all season (387.5 ypg, 59th), so expect UMass to have success through the air. The question will then become, can the Minutemen come up with the big play? The Cougars rank in the top 20 this season in limiting plays of 20 yards or more.

Final Analysis

Look past the records and the lack of anything at stake, and this should be an entertaining ball game. Don’t expect this one to be a blowout as it should be competitive throughout. The difference will be BYU’s defensive line versus the UMass offensive line. The Minutemen offense has given up the most sacks in all of college football this year – 43 in 10 games. BYU’s defensive line has been gaining momentum the past few weeks by creating more of a pass rush. Look for Sione Takitaki and Corbin Kaufusi to make things difficult for UMass QB Andrew Ford. The Cougars find a way to close out senior day with their second win in as many weeks.

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Prediction: BYU 27, UMass 21

— 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.

(Andrew Ford photo courtesy of UMass Athletics)