Conference Games Only? Presenting an Alternative UMass Football Schedule
UMass, along with six FBS Independents already have it tough scheduling all of their games. The pandemic will only make things tougher. The Big 10 announced they're shifting to conference games only, but we still don't know how many games will be played. It could be the original conference slate, or more conference games could be added to create a full 12-game schedule, or even a 10-game schedule.
In UMass' case, there are conveniently 6 "conference" teams in the FBS Independents. Inconveniently, those teams are located extremely far away from Massachusetts, such as BYU, New Mexico State, and Notre Dame. As Independents, they are not required to schedule each other. Also, nothing’s stopping Notre Dame from joining the ACC this season, as they have six games scheduled against teams in that conference. Any of the Independents can just simply refuse to play each other, but it is very unlikely. Not having big “buy” games will make the Independents willing to do pretty much anything to schedule the most games possible.
Let's put reality aside for a moment and talk about a best-case scenario. First, let’s assume Notre Dame joins the ACC for most of their games and that the Independents agree to play each other twice (besides Notre Dame) for a complete schedule of 12 games. UMass already has games scheduled against 4 of the Independents, so let's keep those games and dates in place along with their Week 9 bye. Next, keep the already scheduled Albany FCS game which replaces a Notre Dame game. We’ll keep the Notre Dame road game in for the purpose of this article, but the likelihood UMass plays them this season is extremely unlikely. Now, let's take a look at what we have:
Week 1, Away vs. UConn
The U game (or at least that's what the game should be called) will still go down as planned on the first Thursday night of the season. The Minuteman will likely make the trip down on the morning of game day to best protect health and safety. UMass started out hot in the first few quarters of last year's opener. Let's hope they can finish the job against the first year FBS Independents.
Week 2, Away vs New Mexico St.
Desert fun? Probably not, as UMass will take their first plane trip the night before and be up early for an early afternoon kick-off time to avoid the heat and potential COVID exposure. UMass will have a great chance at a road victory, as the Aztecs of the great state of New Mexico are coming off a 2-10 season, and somehow have not fired their head coach after five total wins the past two seasons. Feels awfully too familiar.
Week 3, Home vs Albany
Keeping this matchup on the schedule makes sense for many reasons. Albany will likely make the trip to Amherst on gameday morning, so travel is limited. Don’t look past the Great Danes though, as they are coming off a strong nine-win season and even winning an FCS playoff game. In their FBS game last season, Albany kept Central Michigan relatively close throughout most of the game.
Week 4, Away vs Army
Well at least last year’s game was tied through most of the first quarter. Just have more of those quarters and we'll be in every game. UMass will likely travel to West Point on gameday again, this time probably a slightly later kickoff than noon to adjust for travel. Expect a closer game on the scoreboard.
Week 5, Home vs Liberty
Another team that torched UMass for 63 points. First, try to cancel the game because it's Liberty. If you have to play them, then try and recruit their players to UMass, I hear many are fed up and trying to transfer. Without Gandy-Golden, Liberty's top weapon from last season and newest member of the Washington NFL team, they probably won't score 63 points again, so there's a chance.
Week 6, Away vs Notre Dame
Well that escalated quickly. Welcome to national television, folks. UMass will take their second plane trip of the season to South Bend in a Saturday night showdown on NBC. Although UMass is extremely unlikely to play Notre Dame this season, we’ll keep this game here because why not? We deserve something good, right? Heisman hopeful QB Ian Book will be a HUGE test for UMass’ defense. Keeping the ball away from ND and keeping up with the Fighting Irish may also be difficult, as Notre Dame returns key players to a defense that gave up just 17.9 PPG last season. Big yikes. Lucky for UMass the stands will be empty, so there's that.
Week 7, Home vs BYU
Thought we could go a year without playing our good Mormon friends from the great state of Utah? Think again. The first of two matchups, this one will probably be the closer one as BYU makes the long trip east with little time to adjust to the time difference. It's close early, but BYU wakes up and rolls past UMass and gets right back on the plane to head home.
Week 8, Home vs UConn
Would this be the first time UMass plays a team twice in a single season? Someone please tell me if I'm wrong, I'm curious. I believe whoever loses the opener takes this one. Expect both games to be emotional and close. There will be a bad taste in someone's team's mouth from Week 1 and revenge will be the theme. Trash talking could be in order, watch out #UMassTwitter. This has the potential to be a very entertaining game week.
Week 9, BYE
Rest up, heal those injuries, and stay safe from COVID. There's still hope for a bowl game, right?
Week 10, Home vs New Mexico St.
Hey New Mexico St., welcome to New England weather. As a previously scheduled game on the original schedule, UMass will have had plenty of time to look over the film from their first game, and they have a good shot to be favored at home here. UMass gets a big win here, but don't celebrate too much in the locker room post game, keep it safe guys.
Week 11, Away vs BYU
Good ol' Provo. UMass has had recent success here, most notably upsetting BYU 16-10 back in 2017. UMass had 4 interceptions on the day, pulling out a mistake-free and time controlled defensive struggle. UMass, along with all of BYU's visitors this season, will be at an increased disadvantage compared to previous seasons with reduced time to adjust to the high altitude and time difference.
Week 12, Home vs Army
Another game previously on the schedule for UMass, it's Army's turn to take the early morning game day bus trip. Expect another freezing afternoon senior day game, disappointingly without family in attendance this time. Third time’s the charm? Possibly, as UMass will have two games of film in the past calendar year to work off of. Expect an all out effort from Walt Bell and company. You smell a potential upset here, right?
Week 13, Away vs Liberty
With UMass (hopefully, maybe) already clinched their first ever bowl game or looking to clinch that sixth win, this game could either be just another season finale or essentially the freaking Super Bowl for this team. The slightly warmer Virginia weather could help on the right day. It may all come down to this, folks. Or it might not matter at all because in a few weeks the season will be canceled and this entire article will be pointless. If that's the case, then just disregard everything I said in this entire piece. In that case, here’s the takeaway. Please wear your mask. You want college football, right? Then just wear it. There's nothing wrong about wanting the things you love to return. Thanks for reading to the end.
Final Record: 4-8
1) @UConn W (1-0)
2) @NMST, L (1-1)
3) Albany, W (2-1)
4) @Army, L (2-2)
5) Liberty, L (2-3)
6) @ND L (2-4)
7) BYU L (2-5)
8) UConn W (3-5)
10) NMST W (4-5)
11) @BYU L (4-6)
12) Army L (4-7)
13) @Liberty L (4-8)