FACTS & STATS: Site: Dudley Field (40,550) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: FSN, NESN. Home Record: UMass 0-4, Vanderbilt 2-2. Away Record: UMass 0-3, Vanderbilt 1-2. Neutral Record: UMass 0-0, Vanderbilt 0-0. Conference Record: UMass 0-4, Vanderbilt 2-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Still in search of their first win as a member of the FBS, the Massachusetts Minutemen head to Nashville for a Saturday night, non-conference bout with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
UMass's first season as a member of the Mid-American Conference has not been a good one as it has lost all seven games, with five of those losses coming by 24 points or more, including a 24-0 defeat at the hands of league foe Bowling Green last week. The Minutemen have been shutout twice and they have lost 10 in a row dating back to last year.
Vanderbilt has had an up-and-down campaign, and although it has suffered some tough defeats in the brutal SEC, it has come through with victories in games it was supposed to win (58-0 verses Presbyterian, 19-15 at Missouri, 17-13 versus Auburn). The Commodores will try for back-to-back wins for the first time since Sept. of 2011.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs on the football field.
The UMass offense has yet to catch up to the higher level of competition, as it puts up just 268.6 ypg and ranks last in the FBS in scoring (11.9 ppg).
Mike Wegzyn threw all four of his touchdown passes this season a few weeks back in a game versus Ohio University, but otherwise he has found next to no success under center, completing less than 51 percent of his passes for 149.3 passing ypg and six interceptions. A.J. Doyle has also seen action, but he too has played poorly (14-of-30, 102 yards, three INTs).
Deion Walker (34 receptions, 424 yards, TD) has proven to be a reliable target for Wegzyn, and Alan Williams (19 receptions, 205 yards, three TDs) has been a factor in the red zone.
Michael Cox is the team's lead back, but his production has been rather pedestrian with 111 carries for 437 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Minutemen average just 3.0 yards per rush attempt.
While the offense has certainly struggled, the defense has also done little to impress (40.7 ppg, 468.1 ypg).
The increased volume of work has made Perry McIntyre one of the top tacklers in the nation (77 tackles, 3.5 TFL). Darren Thellen (44 tackles) has two interceptions, but as a team UMass has created only eight takeaways in seven games.
Playing a difficult schedule in the SEC means that offense is at a premium week in and week out for Vanderbilt (20 ppg, 368 ppg). It tends to struggle in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on just 10-of-26 visits inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
The catalyst for the offense is without question running back Zac Stacy, who, with 169 yards against Auburn last week became the program's all-time leading rusher with 2,670 yards. Stacy also set the single-season school record in rushing in 2011 (1,193 yards), and with a strong stretch run he has a chance at breaking that mark this season (668 yards). With 25 career touchdowns, he also needs just two scores to claim that record.
Jordan Rodgers has thrown for more than 200 ypg and has limited his mistakes (two INTs), but he's only thrown three touchdown passes.
All three scoring strikes have landed in the hands of Jordan Matthews, who is tied for first in the SEC in catches (46) and second in receiving yards (663). Chris Boyd (25 receptions, 482 yards) has emerged as a solid deep threat, but he has yet to find the end zone.
The Commodores' defense has held its own against some of the best teams in the nation, allowing 21 ppg and 331.7 ypg, but they haven't been active in the turnover battle, recording just two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
With 45 tackles for loss and 15 sacks, the squad does a nice job penetrating the line of scrimmage. Chase Garnham leads the team with five sacks.
Simply put, UMass has yet to prove that it can even be competitive on the road, let alone be good enough to win. Vandy has had its share of troubles this season, but winning this non-conference bout should be no problem.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 41, Massachusetts 10Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. (et)