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Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: UMass Minutemen

The Vols get another easy opponent to work out the kinks before their showdown with Georgia.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida
Tennessee gets a tune-up game on Saturday
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know, Tennessee was beaten by Florida last week on one of the most gut-wrenching plays in team history. Not only did they lose the game, but they also lost a couple of key players as well.

Fortunately for the Vols, they have another lesser opponent in the Massachusetts Minutemen coming to town. This game will allow them the opportunity to get a few things - namely the linebacker situation and the passing game - on track before their showdown with Georgia next week.

Overview

Things haven’t fared so well for the Minutemen since they transitioned over to the FBS in 2012. Their overall record since then is a whopping 10-54, including an 0-4 start for the beginning of the 2017 season.

It is definitely a far cry from their FCS Championship season of 1998.

But all four of those losses could have easily gone the other way - something that Vol Nation is awfully familiar with - so don’t let the record completely fool you.

The Minutemen love to air the ball out as evidenced by quarterback Andrew Ford’s and the team’s passing statistics. Ford is tied for seventh in pass completions, fifth in attempts, and fourth in total passing yards in the country.

Ford is also very efficient, tossing six touchdowns to just one interception in the first four games.

However, Massachusetts has played one more game than every other FBS team, so the stats are a tad skewed.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Brigham Young
Quarterback Andrew Ford is the Minutemen’s best player.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

One good item for the Vols is that the Minutemen are absolutely terrible at running the ball. Leading rusher Marquis Young has a paltry 225 total yards on the year, accounting for a stellar (3.8) yards per carry.

Tennessee does need to account for not only Ford, but wide receiver Andy Isabella and tight end Adam Breneman as well. Isabella is the team’s second-leading receiver and while undersized, he can make plays in the open field when called upon.

Breneman plays tight end and the former Penn State player is a major target for Ford. He is big and physical like Vols tight end Ethan Wolf and if the Vols can’t figure out what they need to do at linebacker, then Breneman could have a field day against Tennessee.

On defense, UT needs to look out for defensive end Da’Sean Downey. He is a disruptive force on the outside who already has three sacks on the year - which is UT’s current total as a team.

This is considered as a tune-up game for Tennessee, but UMass has the playmakers and the right system to catch the Vols off guard if the Vols don’t have the right mentality coming into the game.

Last Game

The Minutemen lost to the Temple Owls 29-21. The game was not as close as the score indicated, because UMass scored a late touchdown to make it a one score game.

Andrew Ford passed for 377 yards and two touchdowns and the offense was able to get the running game on track with Young, who averaged over five yards per carry on 15 attempts.

The only lead for the Minutemen came late in the second quarter and it was short lived after Owls quarterback Logan Marchi connected with receiver Adonis Jennings for a 30-yard touchdown to put the Owls up for good.

After four consecutive losses, it is safe to say that Massachusetts is a program in dire search of answers, but this is college football and stats are usually thrown out the window once the game starts.

Impact Players

QB Andrew Ford - Ford is in the nation’s top pecking order when it comes to certain passing statistics and he could be a major factor come Saturday.

TE Adam Breneman - The big, physical tight end will be a good test for the Vols shuffled linebacker corps that has been riddled by injuries.

DE Da’Sean Downey - The team leader in sacks, the Vols have to find a way to keep Downey out of the backfield.

Game Outlook

This one should be another easy win for the Vols ala Indiana State. Despite the injuries, Tennessee is obviously the better program and should come out and handle their business this weekend.

The only potential worry for this game is a major injury to one of Tennessee’s starters. If the Vols can come out of this with a clean bill of health, then Georgia week will become all the more interesting than it already is.