Opponent Preview: UMass Minutemen

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    (Photo via L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

    Record: 0-4
    Conference: Independent
    Head Coach: Mark Whipple, 10th season (57-58)
    Team Nickname: Minutemen
    Location: Hadley, Massachusetts

    Leading Passer: Andrew Ford — 90-140, 1,204 yards, 6 TDs, INT
    Leading Rusher: Marquis Young — 60 carries, 225 yards, 4 TDs
    Leading Receiver: Adam Breneman — 24 receptions, 369 yards

    UMass has started this season without a win through four games of the 2017 season. And they aren’t likely to find their first win on Saturday when they travel to Neyland Stadium to take on the Vols.

    The Minutemen have a high-powered passing attack, but that’s about it. UMass has a middle-of-the-road pass defense nationally, but that’s about the only major positive for the 0-4 Minutemen as they travel down to Knoxville. Andrew Ford, the UMass quarterback, has a ton of talent and has been impressive to start the season. But UMass has yet to play anyone of note either, so those stats have been built up against the likes of Hawaii, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion, and Temple.

    Tennessee has a potent rushing attack headed up by John Kelly, and UMass has the 103rd-ranked rushing defense in the country. That’s the match-up the Vols need to exploit to run up the score early and get younger player more playing time in this one.

    Not only does UMass have a bad rushing defense, but they have a bad rushing attack as well. The Minutemen have the 119th-ranked rushing offense in the NCAA, and they are only averaging 2.6 yards per carry on the year.

    UMass doesn’t have a great kicking game either. Their kicker, Michael Schreiner has missed all four of his field goal attempts this season, and their kickoff unit isn’t strong either. And their punting isn’t great on top of that.

    The Minutemen can pass the ball well and don’t have a bad pass defense, but that’s about it for them. They haven’t lost a game by more than 10 points this season, but some of those losses have been against Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion.

    Last season, UMass played three SEC teams and kept respectable margins in all three of them. They lost by 17 to Florida, lost by 12 to Mississippi State, and lost by just 6 to South Carolina. So they can play SEC teams tough, but they haven’t found a way to win those games.

    This game has all the feel of a sleep walking game for Tennessee. It’s a noon kickoff against a team that has the potential to be a scrappy, pass-happy opponent. The Vols will win this one, but it might look a little closer in the box score than you would expect.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.