Preview: FSU vs. UMass

FSU will enter its homecoming game against Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon looking for its third straight win in as many games. The Seminoles (2-4) are in a must-win situation against the Minutemen (1-5) if FSU has any chance to play in the postseason with games against Clemson, NC State, Miami, Boston College and Florida still left on the schedule. That being said the check and the win should in the mail as FSU enters the game as a 35-point favorite. However, UMass will be well rested coming to Tallahassee after a bye and its only win of the season two weeks ago against Connecticut. Kickoff is at noon on the ACC Network.

Schedule and Results

UMass 7 Pitt 51

UMass 28 Boston College 45

UMass 28 Eastern Michigan 42

UMass 3 Coastal Carolina 53

UMass 27 UConn 13

Coach Speak

The Minutemen are led by head coach Walt Bell, who spent the 2018 season as FSU’s offensive coordinator under Willie Taggart. Bell is just 2-20 as the UMass head coach.

Former FSU running back coach Donte Pimpleton holds the same role at UMass under Bell.

UMass on Offense

Bell runs a spread offense out of a base 11-personnel package that has been very balanced although not very good this season. The UMass offense has run the ball 53 percent of the time this season but has struggled to produce points or yards this season. They rank 123rd in the nation in scoring offense (16.7 ppg), 111th in rushing offense (112 ypg), 105th in passing offense (181 ypg) and 123rd (292.8 ypg) in total offense. The offense is also very young, featuring just four players with 10 or more starts and only seven players on its two-deep who are juniors or seniors.

Like FSU the Minutemen have seen multiple players line up at quarterback. Freshman Brady Olson (6-4, 200) is the starter and his strength is as a passer. He has completed just 51 percent of his passes while throwing for 848 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Freshman Zamir White (6-2, 190) has gotten more playing time as the season has gone on and has been more of a threat with his legs than his arm. He has run the ball 16 times, which has produced 66 yards. White’s 66 yards ranks third-best on the team. White has completed all three passes he has attempted.

The star of the offense is running back Ellis Merriweather, who leads the team in rushing with 415 yards on 87 carries. The junior ran for 172 yards against UConn two weeks ago. They are expected to be without their second-leading rusher, Kay’Ron Adams, who was hurt against UConn.

Junior Rico Arnold (6-1, 190) and sophomore Tray Pettway (6-3, 195) are the teams top targets. Arnold led the team in catches (17) and receiving yards (246). Pettway has 10 receptions for 92 yards. Interesting enough the pair is listed as co-starters on the UMass depth chart.

Up front the offensive line averages 6-4 and 312 pounds and features four players who are sophomores or younger. It is a unit that has struggled to find success opening up holes in the run game but has done a good job of protecting its quarterback. UMass ranks 39th in the country in sacks allowed, where they have given up 10 sacks in six games.

UMass on Defense

UMass runs a base three-man front that generally features both five (base-nickel) and six (base-dime) defensive backs in the game at a time. Like the offense the defense is extremely young. Nine of its 11 starters on defense are redshirt sophomores or younger and they only have three players on the defensive two-deep who are juniors or seniors. To say they have struggled to consistently stop the opposition would be an understatement. They rank 125th (480.8 ypg) in total defense, 128th (41.5 ppg) in scoring defense, 126th (226.7 ypg) in rushing defense and 102nd (254.2) in passing defense.

The biggest playmaker on the defensive front is sophomore defensive end Billy Wooden (6-1, 310) who has 24 tackles and leads the team with 4.5 tackles for a loss. The leader of the defense is sophomore middle linebacker Da’Shon Ross, who leads the team with 52 tackles. Freshman linebacker/safety Gerrell Johnson (6-3, 225) is second on the team in tackles with 42 stops. In the secondary freshman Cody Jones (6-0, 195) and Te’rai Powell are both tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 27 stops.

Kicking Game

Junior punter George Georgopoulos has been busy but productive this season. He is averaging 42.7 yards per punt on 34 opportunities. He has nine punts that have traveled 50 yards or more and almost one third of his punts have resulted in the opposition starting inside their own 20-yard line.

Freshman Cameron Carson will handle the place-kicking chores. He is just 3 of 5 on the season and has only made one kick from 30 yards or more this season.