Week 1 College Football Saturday: UMass Minutemen vs. Florida Gators

Big South Tournament
Florida enters Week 1 as heavy favorites against lowly UMass.

Time: 7:30 PM
Spread: FLA -21
Total: 28

Betting odds c/o 5dimes


The Massachusetts Minutemen finished 3-9 last season with a 2-6 mark in MAC play. UMass began the season with three straight losses to Colorado, Temple and Notre Dame, and those tough non-conference games set the tone for a rough season. The lone wins came against lowly FIU, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo, as the Minutemen tied for 5th in the MAC.

Losing most of its key offensive talent will hardly help, though the offense does return five starters. Four of those five returning starters are on the OL, though losing all-time catch and pass yardage leader Tajae Sharpe to the NFL is a big blow to Massachusetts. It also lost QB Blake Frohnapfel, who did well in his short stint with the Minutemen. They will turn to sophomore Andrew Ford at QB.

The Minutemen are short on playmakers and were not even especially dominant offensively in 2015 while it had them, averaging just 22.2 points and 399.8 yards per game, good for No. 108 and No. 65 in the nation.

The passing game is a huge question mark, and RB Marquis Young is going to have a lot of pressure and a lot of carries to his name this season. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season as a rookie, and he had 240 yards and three TDs in the season finale win over Buffalo. He is the one player on Massachusetts offense capable of really changing a game.

Massachusetts is now an independent program after leaving the MAC, but the roster is loaded with too many question marks for Mark Whipple, who has posted a 127-77 mark in his 18 seasons of coaching.

Facing three SEC opponents is just part of a tough schedule that will give Mass more than enough issues this season. Week 1 is just the beginning of the SEC foes, as Florida is heavy favorites quite expectedly at 5dimes and all other major oddsmakers.

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The Florida Gators finished 2015 with a 10-4 record and 7-1 SEC mark. The offense returns just four players, though, while the defense returns a healthy eight.

Florida will turn to QB Luke Del Rio to guide its team this season. The 6’1” sophomore transferred from Oregon State but sat out last season due to the transfer rule. He has enough experience and talent to guide a team with plenty of turnover around him. Three of the four returning starters are on the OL, though, which should be a good sign with two juniors in David Sharpe and Cameron Dillard to provide leadership and experience.

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The Gators have three RBs who should be able to move the chains with their physicality. Sophomore Jordan Cronkite leads the unit, and JUCO transfer TB Mark Thompson is a 6’2” 242 pound addition capable of using his strong frame to create his own holes.

The WRs and TEs will have a lot of work to do in replacing the losses of Demarcus Robinson and Jake McGee, but Sophomore Antonio Callaway is also indefinitely suspended due to sexual assault. ESPN 95.3 Gainesville reported that he was allowed back on campus in June and participated in fall practices, though, so his status is a big cloud over what could be a good season in Gainesville.

The Gators should be able to rely again on the strength of a defense that returns eight starters and was superb in 2015. Florida held opponents to just 18.3 points and 310.2 yards per game, ranking No. 11 and No. 8 in the nation, respectively.

The lack of depth defensively could be an issue, but the linebackers and secondary are fine if everyone can remain healthy, which is of course no guarantee whatsoever in the SEC or greater college football.

The biggest questions are all on the offensive end for Florida, but it should get a chance to establish some Week 1 momentum against a weak Massachusetts team just hoping to stay in the game as three-TD underdogs at oddsmaker 5dimes.

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