South Carolina is coming off its bye week and heading into its second nonconference game of the season.
With Massachusetts coming to Columbia, we took some time to talk with UMass beat writer Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, who kindly took time from his busy week to talk Minutemen-Gamecocks.
Here’s what Vautour had to say about the matchup, which kicks off at 12:01 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network:
Wilson: UMass stuck with Mississippi State well and has played Florida. How do those experiences help the Minutemen in coming to Williams-Brice Stadium?
Vautour: I think UMass won’t be intimidated. They think they could have won both of those games. I’m not sure they’re right, but there were right in both games in the fourth quarter. Sometimes when a weaker teams travels to a Power 5 school they’ll look rattled in the first quarter. I don’t think that will happen here.
Wilson: Coming off a tough defensive showing against Louisiana Tech, what’s the mentality like coming in to face an iffy South Carolina offense? And how much does the loss of LB Shane Huber (torn ACL) hurt UMass?
Vautour: Well I think South Carolina probably has more overall talent than La Tech, but the Bulldogs offense is running at peak efficiency this season especially throwing the ball. I don’t think South Carolina will have UMass on its heels quite as much. UMass misses Huber more against the run once the ball is snapped, but he made all the calls on defense so his leadership in a young until is also noticeably absent.
Wilson: I’m assuming Andrew Ford will start at quarterback this week. What has the offense been like with Ford? It is more effective than with Ross Comis?
Vautour: Both quarterbacks have been effective as times and mistake-prone at times. I’m honestly not sure who is better between them. Ford is more of a pocket passer, which Mark Whipple has favored in two stints in Amherst.
Wilson: Mark Whipple had a nice level of success in his first stint at UMass. What is it going to take to duplicate that this time around?
Vautour: In 1998 he took a team who’d been 2-9 in 1997 to the Division I-AA championship. I don’t think that’s possible to replicate in UMass’ current situation. UMass’ schedule gets a little easier and the core of its roster gets a little older in 2017 so there’s a chance to take a much needed step.
Wilson: How do you see things unfolding Saturday?
Vautour: UMass has played better against name-brand opponents and I think South Carolina has always been a game the players have looked forward to. But while I think the Minutemen will hang around and make it interesting for a while before South Carolina’s talent superiority eventually prevails.