It seems odd that we’re still in August, and yet at least one FBS program has already suffered a devastating loss that could hamper its season – and which has landed the coaches in hot water.
The UMass Minutemen enjoyed a 2-touchdown lead against visiting Hawaii in the season opener, then somehow found a way to trail by 3 with time running out. The hosts were able to work the ball to the 50 yard line for a final, desperate shot at the end zone with :05 remaining.
But inexplicably, QB Andrew Ford was told to throw a swing pass to RB Marquis Young in the backfield. Those expecting a halfback-pass or a flurry of laterals were disappointed as Young simply ran for a few yards and went down, ending the misery to a chorus of boos.
Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina is hosting its very first game as an FBS team, and is hoping to earn enough respect to no longer be a default-example of a cupcake opponent.
Who: Massachusetts Minutemen at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
When: Saturday September 2nd, 7 PM EST
Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC
Lines: UMass (-1.5) at Coastal Carolina (+1.5) / O/U Total: (56.5)
The prevailing consensus among pundits is that Coastal Carolina, despite going 10-2 in its final season in the FCS, will experience growing pains in the team’s first year with the big boys. It’s true that the Chanticleers lost 12 starters from 2016’s lineup, and HC Joe Moglia has left the team unexpectedly with a medical condition. Safety C.J. Thompson was probably the squad’s best defender, grabbing 2 interceptions in a 48-17 win over Presbyterian in 2016. He’s gone as well.
But don’t underestimate the home team. The Teal and Bronze hail from one of the toughest FCS conferences, out of which fellow Sun Belt schools Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were able to immediately find success upon transferring to the Bowl class. UMass is a relatively small-fry independent which struggled to control the LOS and ultimately blew a big lead in its 2017 debut. Coastal Carolina is welcoming Syracuse transfer Austin Wilson at QB, an unproven career-backup who nonetheless brings ACC experience to the salty shore. He should find passing lanes against a sub-par defensive front.
The Minutemen are likely to play a cautious game on offense after last week’s 2nd-half debacle, making the under a tempting bet. But we think the slight-underdog Chanticleers will surprise with a win.
The close spread is no accident. Bookies understand what the pundits don’t – the top conferences in the FCS are as good as the lowest rungs of the FBS. The Championship Subdivision (full of SUVs and picket fences, of course) is simply not covered as much in the media, leading to the negative bias of unfamiliarity.
Pick the road less traveled-by, and take ‘Carolina for the payoff bet.