This is not the marquee matchup of the day. UMass (1-10) takes on New Mexico State (1-10) in a battle of subpar Independents on Saturday at 3pmET from Las Cruces.
The big news for the Minutemen is that they have a new coach for next season and it's Don Brown, formerly a defensive coordinator at Arizona and who coached at Amherst from 2004-08 (43-19), when they competed at FCS.
UMass is coming off a 33-17 loss at Army last Saturday, while the Aggies fell at Kentucky 56-16.
Good news, bad newsThe good news is that the 66-year old Brown is coming back home and at least he'll improve a defense that ranks 124th in the nation (473.7ypg). It's difficult to improve a program when they are not playing in a conference unless you are Notre Dame or BYU. You could also put Army in that category, though the Minutemen gave them a solid game last week. They led 19-17 early in the fourth quarter on a Josiah Johnson one-yard run. But the Black Knights scored the next two touchdowns to put the game away 33-17.
“It’s not a victory because we didn’t win, but what I do count it as is a building block,” interim coach Alex Miller said in the Gazzettenet.com . “You can use it as a teachable moment and say this is what happens when we lock in.”
UMass, who has lost five straight games, produced just 12 first downs. Garrett Dzuro completed 7 of 13 for 7 yards with a TD, but also had two picks. Ellis Merriweather ran for 110 yards on 17 attempts. Dzuro stepped in for Brady Olson, who had completed 48.1% of his passes for 1,153 yards with eight TDs and seven picks.
On the season, UMass is averaging just 291.2 yards per game (125th), 156 passing yards (120th), and 135.2 rushing yards (92nd). Their run defense is abysmal as they are giving up 239.6 yards per game (126th).
New Mexico State is dueTalk about a tough schedule. New Mexico State has faced Alabama (59-3), Kentucky last week, Utah State (35-13), San Diego State (28-10) and they beat South Carolina (43-35). Yes, their only win of the season came against South Carolina on Sept. 18 and not against Hawaii (yes they played them twice) or rival New Mexico (34-25).
New Mexico State lost to Kentucky last week in a game that was never close. The Aggies' offense was so bad that their only touchdown was scored on a 25-yard fumble return by Trevor Brohard. Kicker Ethan Albertson kicked three field goals including a 50-yarder.
Maybe a conference would be better for New Mexico. Collecting paychecks to get your butts kicked nearly every game can't be fun for fans and alums. That's why they are allowing 497 yards per game overall to rank 127th, 309.7 passing yards per game to rank 129th and 187 rushing yards (104th). Offensively, Jonah Johnson is completing 56.9% of his passes for 2,282 yards with eight TDs and eight picks. He does have four rushing touchdowns, but Aggies' running game needs as much help as they can get (ranked 125th).
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I don't like laying points in this situation, but I think New Mexico State is better than a lot of teams on the UMass schedule. UMass lost to FCS Maine at home 35-10 on Nov. 13. That's a low point for any FBS program. That loss came right after they lost at home to another FCS program Rhode Island 35-22. Maybe UMass should join the CAA and head back to FCS. That makes South Carolina look first. Hopefully Don Brown will turn the program around, but right now they are dreadful. The Aggies will finally get their second win
Full-Game Total Pick
Both of these teams are rotten on offense. Neither has a quality quarterback and now they'll be facing an offense that stinks. It's almost like looking in a mirror. UMass has gone under in two straight, while the Aggies have gone under in two of three. Again, the Aggies played two straight SEC teams and got drilled, while UMass was drilled by two FCS teams. Take the under.