Could UMass and Liberty develop into a rivalry amongst the FBS Indy’s? If they keep having games like last year’s 3 overtime thriller it certainly seems that will be the case.

UMass Minutemen

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Conference: Independent

Coach: Walt Bell replaced Mark Whipple following the 2018 season and Bell comes to UMass following stints as offensive coordinator over the past 4 seasons at Arkansas State, Maryland, and, most recently, Florida State. At just 34 years old, Bell will implement a fast-tempo spread offensive system.

2018 Record: 4-8

Last Season: UMass was unable to reach a bowl game in 2018, winning only 4 games. Life has been difficult for the Minutemen since joining the FBS ranks in 2012, compiling a record of 14-58 during that time period. Last season, wins came against FCS Duquesne, Charlotte, UConn, and Liberty, but UMass wasn’t even competitive in the majority of their other games on the season.

Andy Isabella concluded a stellar career with an FBS leading 1,639 receiving yards and 2nd most in the country with 102 receptions. He finished his career as the school’s all-time career leader in receiving yards with 3,526. He was selected in the 2nd round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The UMass rushing game was poor in 2018 as the offense was relegated to having to find success through the air.

The defense was one of the worst in all of FBS, allowing more than 485 yards and 43 points per game during the season.

2019 Outlook: Excitement has returned to our Independent brethren in the northeast with new head coach Walt Bell, but he loses some key contributors from last year including Isabella, quarterbacks Ross Comis and Andrew Ford, and last year’s leading tacklers Bryton Barr and Brice McAllister.

Redshirt-senior quarterback Michael Curtis is the frontrunner to become the starter. He saw spot duty last year after Comis and Ford went down to injury, including his role in the win over Charlotte. Several other quarterbacks are fighting Curtis for the starting job including Mike Fallon, Randall West, and Jared Pallotta. Despite losing Isabella, the Minutemen should be fine at wide receiver as plenty of depth receivers return. UMass also must replace 3 starting offensive linemen who will not return.

Liberty Game Date: Saturday, November 2

Location: McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, MA

Odds of Liberty Victory: 58 percent

Very Early Outlook: We all remember the instant classic these teams played last season, even if we wish we could forget it. The Minutemen were able to squeak out a win in triple overtime, 62-59. The Flames let a 14-point lead slip away in the final 7 minutes of regulation. Both teams will have first year head coaches, but Liberty has the edge with the more experienced Freeze and most skill players returning.