We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. However, UMass’ SBNation blog went defunct in 2012. So this week we’re chatting with Kevin Little aka Xs and nOles, one of our resident Triple Option members. Kevin has spent some time watching UMass film and happily answered some questions for us.
TN: Ok, let’s get it out of the way - UMass won their first game this season under head coach Walt Bell last week, beating UConn 27-13. FSU of course lost to FCS Jacksonville State earlier this year and therefore cannot afford to overlook any opponent. Should Florida State Seminoles football fans be worried about losing this game?
Xs&nOles aka Kevin Little: While anything can happen on any given Saturday in college football, this should not be one of those games. UMass isn’t a good football team. They don’t have a starting quarterback who was a four star transfer out of high school. They don’t seem well coordinated or coached. FSU has a decided advantage on both sides of the line of scrimmage and FSU has already played around and got burned by a lesser opponent. This shouldn’t be a close game but if it is there are much bigger problems on campus than we previously thought.
TN: There were some rumors that former head coach Willie Taggart may or may not have interfered with the offense Walt Bell wanted to run when he was the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator back in 2018. Now that Bell is the captain of his own ship, what kind of scheme does UMass run on offense? Will they be able to move the ball against FSUs defense?
KL: The word “interfered” implies that the thing being interfered with had a destination it was heading to in the first place. What happened under Taggart with Walt Bell was more akin to one of those childhood races where you have to tie your shoelaces with another kid’s but in this circumstance, it seemed like both kids were blindfolded.
The UMass offense has very little identity. They’re a prototypical spread offense that does a decent job varying their formation but I don’t feel like they play into the strengths of their team. On offense, they have a few skill players who have some talent but their offensive line is so poor that it’s hard to get them the ball. You’ll see them run a fair amount of quick/tunnel screens to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand but teams are able to key off of that. Much like his time at FSU, Bell seems ignorant of the existence of an intermediate passing game and he asks his quarterback to stand in the pocket trying to deliver the ball downfield. This of course means there’s extra time for his QB to become acquainted with the opposing front seven. The running game is much of the same. They like to run a fair amount of power and counter which involves pulling linemen but I don’t think they quite have the speed to make that effective at this level of football.
TN: I’ll throw the same question to you about the Minutemen defense - what’s the identity of this unit and do they have enough talent to limit FSUs rushing attack?
KL: Much like their offense, they go either 0 or 100. They base out of a 3-4 and alternate between bringing the house and bringing only 3. Against more run-heavy teams they really like loading the box so it’s more what I expect from them this weekend. However, even with numbers, it’s rare that they’re able to hold the front line. In the games, I’ve seen their front has just been outmatched which makes it difficult to play defense. If FSU plays their cards right they should have a big game on the ground.
TN: UMass held its first football season in 1879, making it the fourth oldest FBS program. Another big FBS program started that year - can you guess who?
KL: So I imagine football was mostly in the northeast at this time and usually at higher tier schools. Also with your wording, I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic by saying a “big” FBS program. Technically all of the ivy league schools are FCS so I guess that leads me to Rutgers.
TN: It’s Michigan! If FSU finishes with 5 wins, meaning the Jacksonville State loss kept FSU out of a bowl, does that hurt Mike Norvell? Or will the improvement after starting 0-4 wash away the pain?
KL: I mean equally Louisville, Wake, and Notre Dame kept FSU out of a bowl if that were the case; however, people tend to remember what you’ve done lately. I’m sure some out there will spin it to look bad but a 5 win finish with the start FSU has had is no small feat.
At the end of the day, however, nothing matters as much as which kids sign their names to come to FSU for the 2022 season. If we didn’t win another game (after UMass) but kept the class it would probably be worth it for the future of the program.
TN: UMass is in Amherst, where they say “only the h is silent.” Do you think they’re gonna loudly hold this L or will FSU put on another embarrassing performance? (FSU opened as a 37-point favorite.) Give us a score prediction.
KL: I think FSU has found a bit of identity. It took longer than most hoped but after UNC they seem to be moving forward a bit. I also think this team wants to send a message this week. I would be pretty surprised if UMass was able to make it interesting at any point in the second half but FSU has surprised me before.
A big thank you to Kevin for taking the time to chat!