The University of Massachusetts Minutemen won the first matchup of their showdown with the state of New Mexico, opening their season on the road in the Land of Enchantment with a 41-30 victory over New Mexico State. Next, it’ll be their turn to host in the home and home series, with the Minutemen taking on the University of New Mexico Lobos at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium this September 23, 2023.
The two teams have never played each other before—one of the beautiful things about the Minutemen not playing in a specific conference is that they’re largely free to schedule games how they wish, not boxed into playing the same set of opponents each season—so this should be a fascinating matchup against their Mountain West foe. Here’s a look at how it could play out.
Breaking Down the Team: Lobos
We’ll start with the road team. The Lobos are coming off of a miserable season, going 2-10 with an imperfect 0-8 record in the Mountain West Conference. They fired offensive coordinator Derek Warehime because of it and haven’t played a game yet under the newly hired Bryant Vincent, so UMass fans who are interested in casing their future opponents can watch the Lobos’ September 2 matchup against the Texas A&M Aggies to get an idea of how Vincent meshes with New Mexico’s talents.
He seems to know what he’s doing, as he led the University of Alabama at Birmingham to 30.1 points and 438.2 yards per game as the interim head coach (with a decided focus on guiding the offense) last season. The Lobos scored barely more than 13 points per game this season, a figure that ranked second to last in all of Division 1 FBS, which is why Warehime got shipped out of town. It’ll be interesting to see if Vincent is able to turn the program’s fortunes around overnight, or if it’ll take him a year or two to recruit the types of players who best fit his offensive scheme.
While we won’t know exactly how this matchup might shake out for a few more weeks—coaching changes can be notoriously difficult to forecast—online sports enthusiasts, through platforms like the sports betting apps Massachusetts has available, can utilize exclusive promo codes to subtly enhance their game day involvement.
Breaking Down the Odds: Minutemen
Now for the home team. The Minutemen, like the Lobos, had a miserable season in 2022, going 1-11. Their lone win came against the Stony Brook Wolves of FCS. Unlike the Lobos, they decided to stay the course, retaining head coach Don Brown, offensive coordinator Steve Casula and defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski. The only reason that the Lobos’ offensive ranking wasn’t the worst in college football last season was because of the Minutemen, who scored more than half a point less.
As any UMass fan knows, the football program has been miserable for several seasons: their Week 0 win over New Mexico State meant that they tied their highest win total for each of the past four seasons, as the team has gone 1-37 since the beginning of 2019.
Given that their athletic director hasn’t blown things up yet, there’s some cautious optimism that Casula could help revive the Minutemen’s offense in his second full season calling the shots, but so much else has gone wrong for the team over the past decade that it’s going to be hard for me to buy in until I can see those positive returns for myself.
Who’s the Favorite?
It feels insane to say given the recent history of the two programs, but I’m going to have to take UMass in this game. That’s not me praising the Minutemen so much as it is skepticism about what the Lobos will be able to do. New Mexico hasn’t had a winning season since 2016 (although the Minutemen outdo them in that pitiful stat, as they haven’t had a winning season since 2008), and we haven’t been able to see what they can do under Vincent and Reffett yet.
They and their players should have plenty of time to get warmed up to the new philosophies, as they’ll have three more games to play before they head to The Bay State to take on the Minutemen, but I like seeing proven assets at work.
We’ve seen the Minutemen upset an opponent by multiple scores who they were supposed to lose to by more than a touchdown, all while playing on the road more than 2,000 miles away from home, so I have to praise the team for their spirit.
The flip side is true for the Lobos, as it’ll be a tall order to deal with traveling to Massachusetts and managing to come away with a win. The betting lines won’t drop until we’re closer to the game itself, but as things stand right now, I like the Minutemen’s chances.