College football odds, picks and predictions for UMass vs. Tulane (Saturday, September 3)
UMass Odds vs. Tulane
UMass travels to Louisiana for a game against Tulane to kick off their season.
The Minutemen have been among the bottom five teams in the nation for the past decade. The program hopes to change that with the hiring of Don Brown for his second stint with UMass. Brown will have a ton of returning production from last season to work with.
Tulane is coming off its worst season in a decade after winning just two games last year. The Green Wave are hoping to limit self-inflicted injuries after averaging more than two turnovers per game last season.
UMass lost all of its matchups last season by double digits. But can the Minutemen do enough to keep this game in the four-touchdown range?
Things haven’t been great for UMass since returning to FBS in 2012. In the 10 years since he joined FBS, the program has a 20-92 record. But this season, they’re bringing in Brown for his second stint as head coach.
Brown is a local legend around New England. He guided Plymouth State to two perfect regular seasons and led Northeastern to its only Division I AA playoff appearance.
Brown was with UMass for five years and led it to the 2006 national championship game at the FCS level. He has spent the past twelve seasons guiding the Power Five defenses from Michigan to Arizona.
The Minutemen are coming off a 1-11 season, which featured all 11 double-digit losses. The program was outperformed by an average margin of 16 to 43 and ranked among the bottom in the nation in almost all advanced metrics.
But if there’s any reason for optimism, it comes in the form of a production comeback. UMass was one of the youngest teams in the nation and ranks fourth nationally in returning to production, according to TARP.
Running back Ellis Merriweather is the star of this offense after rushing for over 1,100 yards and over five yards per carry. The offense will continue to rely on him, but they need to find some production through the air.
Quarterback Brady Olson has completed less than 50% of his passes averaging just 5.3 yards per attempt. The starting job is still vacant, as Brown has listed five possible options on the depth chart.
The UMass defense was tough to watch last season, allowing 43 points per game. The defense came away with just two interceptions and a total of 14 sacks last season, both in the bottom three in the nation.
But with a head coach who has earned the moniker “Dr. Blitz” that should surely improve this season.
Although Tulane won just one more game than UMass last season, the bar is significantly higher for the Green Wave. Half of the team’s 10 losses have come by a single possession.
Head coach Willie Fritz had the deck stacked against the program from the start. Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, causing some chaos in the program early in the season.
Plus, the Green Wave had an insane schedule, including Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, SMU, UAB and Houston before Halloween.
The offense returns nine starters, including four from the offensive line. Last year’s squad was largely mediocre, averaging 28 points and 5.6 yards per game.
Quarterback Michael Pratt averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt and just under 200 yards per game. The running game was highlighted by lightning-fast Tyjae Spears, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry.
The attack’s Achilles’ heel last season was its turnover issues. The program averaged more than two turnovers per game after throwing 13 interceptions and losing a dozen fumbles.
The defense struggled a lot last year and only held two opponents to less than 20 points last season. The Green Wave allowed 5.8 yards per play, which ranked 91st in the country last season.
They were decent against the run (3.9 yards per play), but struggled mightily through the air (8.1 yards per play).
UMass vs. Tulane betting picks
It’s no secret that UMass has been one of the worst teams in college football for the past few seasons. That said, Brown has plenty of returning production to work with and will put the team in a position to be competitive.
UMass will find success running the ball against a Tulane defense that was disappointing last season. Merriweather is going to have a heavy workload in this game, and UMass will try to control the clock.
Tulane’s defense was likely to allow big plays, as it ranked outside the top 100 in explosiveness against the rush last season.
The Green Wave had major turnover problems last season, spitting the ball out more than twice a game. The Minutemen will be constantly blitzing this game, putting pressure on Pratt to make quick decisions with the football.
It’s not easy backing a team with a recent record like UMass, but my numbers have Tulane favored by 25 in this game. I see value with the Minutemen catching more than four touchdowns.