The UMass Minutemen travel to New Jersey in Week 1 of the 2019-20 college football season for a battle against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Kickoff is set for 7:15 PM EST on August 30th at SHI Stadium in Piscataway and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Rutgers opened as a 11-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has increased substantially after early betting, as the Scarlet Knights are currently listed at -15.5. The total for the game is sitting at 55.5 points.
Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Rutgers vs UMass
UMass finished last season with a disappointing 4-8 record, which was the second straight year in which they won five or less games. The Minutemen decided to move on from Mark Whipple for a second time after he went just 10-26 since taking over as head coach in 2016. UMass will now turn to Walt Bell, who could be in for a long first season after losing two quarterbacks from their 2018 roster. However, senior QB Michael Curtis should provide some stability at the position, as he threw four touchdowns in a small reserve role last season. Curtis will certainly miss the presence of reception monster Andy Isabella, who racked up over 100 catches during his final year of eligibility before getting drafted in the second round by Arizona. In any event, there is still enough talent at the receiver position for the Minutemen to give Curtis plenty of options in the passing game.
Things didn’t exactly go all that smoothly on the defensive side of the ball for UMass last season, which likely played a huge factor in the dismissal of Mark Whipple. The Minutemen gave up a cringe-worthy average of 42.9 points per game (126th overall) and struggled mightily to defend against both the rush and the pass. They were especially poor at stopping the run, as opponents averaged a healthy 274.8 yards per game on the ground.
Rutgers also had an extremely rough season in 2018, winning just one game en route to a 1-11 record overall. Head Coach Chris Ash is definitely on the hot seat after going 7-29 over his first three years on the job. It is certainly somewhat surprising that Ash is even back on the sidelines to start the year, as his tenure has been a complete failure so far. The Scarlet Knights were nothing short of horrendous on offense last season, as starting QB Artur Sitkowski completed less than 50% of his passes and had a 4:18 touchdown to interception ratio. Despite those awful numbers, Sitkowski has somehow managed to hang on to his starting job – at least to start the year. Texas Tech transfer McClane Carter didn’t show enough to unseat Sitkowski during camp, which certainly should raise some eyebrows when considering just how bad the passing game was during 2018.
The Scarlet Knights also had their fair share of struggles defensively, as opposing teams managed to average 31.4 points per game (89th overall) on 401.5 total yards (69th overall). They had a particularly tough time against the run, surrendering an average of more than 215 rushing yards per game (108th overall).
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: UMass +15.5
This pick is more about my lack of faith in the Rutgers offense than it is about my confidence in UMass to stay within striking distance. While I would be somewhat shocked if the Minutemen can stay within a touchdown or less, the current line of 15.5 is simply too many free points to leave on the board. This is a classic case of switching sides based on massive early line movement, as I think too much money rushed in to bet Rutgers when the game first hit betting markets which resulted in value opening up on the opposite side. The Scarlet Knights ability to run the ball will help them avoid a massive upset, but I don’t think they have enough stability at the quarterback position to win by more than two touchdowns.
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Not only was Sitkowski a turnover machine, he also barely managed to average four yards per attempt during the 2018 season. Even if he manages to improve right out of the gate to start his second full season as a starting quarterback, I’m not so sure that a below-average Rutgers defense will be able to completely shutdown UMass offensively – especially with plenty of question marks surrounding their defensive line. This is shaping up to be a pretty ugly game offensively, and while I’m still expecting the home team to come away with a victory, I’m going to take a shot with the points in this particular spot. Give me the Minutemen to cover on the road!