Matt Vautour: With a win under its belt, how many more can UMass hope for?

  • UMass running back Bilal Ally, left, powers through the Georgia Southern defense and Richard Byrd in the first quarter at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst Saturday. AP

  • Roderick Jones, top right, and Chinedu Ogbonna, top left, celebrate along the UMass sideline at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst Saturday. AP

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 10/23/2017 9:17:11 PM

UMass isn’t going 0-for. That’s a concern for any team that loses six straight to start the season. But it’s no longer a risk for the Minutemen.

Was Saturday’s 55-20 drubbing of Georgia Southern the start of a second-half resurgence for the UMass football team or a good day in the middle of a bad season?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

At 0-6, any win would have been welcomed, but Georgia Southern was bad. Really bad. Bad enough that its head coach was fired Sunday.

But the Minutemen didn’t just edge the Eagles, they hammered them. The outcome wasn’t really in doubt after the first half.

UMass produced turnovers and didn’t allow a sack.

The running game, which has been at best inconsistent, broke out.

The rest of the games will be harder. The following are UMass’ five remaining games listed from most to least winnable on paper:

Maine (Nov. 11 at Fenway Park) — Optimists look at this game and think UMass can’t lose to a 3-3 FCS opponent. Pessimists will remember the Minutemen falling to the Black Bears in 2013.

Florida International (Dec. 2) — If this game happens (see below), the Golden Panthers are better than the FIU teams UMass has beaten each of the last two seasons, and this game is on the road.

BYU (Nov. 18) — The Cougars hammered UMass last year, but BYU has fallen on hard times and is 1-7, with its lone win coming against FCS Portland State.

Still, this is a better program than any the Minutemen have beaten since the upgrade.

Appalachian State (Saturday) — The Mountaineers lead the Sun Belt and at 5-2, need one win to be bowl eligible. UMass has hung with good teams. It hasn’t beaten one yet.

Mississippi State (Nov. 4) — The Bulldogs are 5-2 with their lone losses coming on the road to Georgia and Auburn.

UMass’ best hope is that MSU overlooks the Minutemen the week before its home game against No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 11.

GAME OF THE WEEK:No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. FOX — Penn State left Michigan at the side of the road with a 42-13 pasting of the Wolverines at home. Now comes the hard part. PSU has back-to-back games at No. 6 Ohio State and at No. 16 Michigan State. Win both and they can coast into the Big Ten championship game.

Ohio State can atone for its early loss to Oklahoma with a win and put itself back into the playoff picture.

PLAYOFF BOUND: Alabama, Penn State, TCU, Clemson.

IF I HAD A HEISMAN VOTE — Saquon Barkley rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns in a drubbing of Michigan. The Penn State running back looks ready to pull away.

FIU WATCH — Whether or not UMass plays a 12th game this season could be greatly affected when Florida International visits Marshall, Saturday (2:30 p.m.).

The Minutemen’s game at FIU on Dec. 2 will only take place if the Golden Panthers don’t qualify for the Conference USA championship game.

FIU (2-1 CUSA) is a game back of Marshall (3-0) in the league’s East Division. A loss would put them essentially three games back (two actual games, plus the Thundering Herd would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker).

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage




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