FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: UMass
Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: UMass

The Seminoles come off a bye week to play the Minutemen back home.

With the season fast approaching, and College Football rolling full-steam ahead with current scheduling and formatting, fans are eager to hit the stands and cheer on their favorite team. 2021 is a year of much anticipation after the Coronavirus pandemic crippled schedules and limited capacity in stadiums. The Florida State Seminoles were one such program affected by the 2020 season. Several games were cancelled, rivalries were sidelined, and a new coaching staff was stalled in their ability to effectively recruit and implement their scheme.

Drama ensued, injuries took course, and opt-outs effectively hindered what amounts to a legitimate Year 0 in the Norvell era. Think of 2020 as a glorified practice run. Going 3-6 (out of 11 games), the year showed the mountain set before this staff and program in their CLIMB back to the top. Still, there were highlights and gradual improvement over the course of the season, and legitimate offseason hype as the ‘Noles are seemingly back-on-track.

The offseason is still in-effect across College Football, but with the recruiting dead period now over, a season in 2020 to evaluate personnel and conditions within the program, and a vision now to sell to the team, the fans, and recruits, it is fair to say that 2021 is Mike Norvell’s Year 1.

The training wheels are off, and for the Seminole faithful, it’s now time to preview our upcoming season’s opponents.

Game Seven: UMass

Head Coach: Walt Bell (Head Coach record of 1-15 in Collegiate Football)

Mascot: Sam the Minuteman

Conference: Independent

2020 Record: 0-4

History vs Florida State: There is no history to pull from with these two programs, as neither have faced one another on the gridiron prior to this game.

Minutemen Storylines to Follow:

Guess Whose Back!?

The most pertinent storyline as it relates to Seminole Nation is that current head coach Walt Bell was formerly Florida State’s offensive coordinator under former head coach Willie Taggart. It is no secret that Walt Bell and Willie Taggart were not on good terms, especially towards the end of the 2018 regular season. The frustrations stemmed from the lack of play calling responsibility given to Walt, with Taggart insisting on calling his own plays and running his “Gulf Coast” offense. Being an young coordinator with an upward career trajectory, this decision proved contentious as the 2018 season dragged along. With losses stacking, it was within Walt Bell’s personal interest to make a career move to afford him an opportunity to continue to enhance his resume.

Unfortunately for Walt Bell, the transition from offensive coordinator to head coach has proven rocky, at best. Going 1-15, coach Bell took a risk in making the transition to UMass which has failed to translate to any sort of success. This has all but stifled his career trajectory in coaching at the collegiate level.

Walt Bell is also of notoriety at Florida State in seemingly bearing responsibility for Sam Howell’s flip to the Tar Heels. Being the primary recruiter for the talented high school prospect, Walt Bell burnt down every bridge the University had with Sam Howell on his way out. This cost Willie Taggart and his staff any shot at securing a quarterback commitment in the 2019 recruiting cycle, and started the domino effect that likely cost Taggart his job at FSU.

Twelve Points

In the 2020 season, that is the total number of points the Minutemen put on the scoreboard across all four games. UMass lost 0-41 against Georgia Southern, 10-51 against Marshall, 2-24 against FAU, and 0-45 against Liberty. While amusing to see UMass giving Willie Taggart the biggest fight among these four teams, it’s admittedly embarrassing as a fan of the sport that I even have to comment on this as being a major storyline to know regarding a team Florida State will face.

The Minutemen must find a way to convert on 3rd and long situations if they want any hope of actually scoring points in 2021, let alone winning games.

Win Something…

An extension on the storyline above, Walt Bell is 1-15 in two seasons as head coach of the Minutemen. If he has any aspirations of being a head coach (or even signal caller) at other programs, he needs to demonstrate he can lead teams to victory and score points given the constraints at a program such as UMass. Their lack of conference affiliation might be the one benefit UMass has, in they can dictate their own schedule and build momentum for their program if they can balance the paycheck losses along with other lower-tier Group of Five programs they’re capable of upsetting.

The 2021 schedule for UMass consist of games at Pitt (ouch), versus Boston College (double ouch), Eastern Michigan (winnable), at Coastal Carolina, versus Toledo, UConn (winnable), at FSU (triple ouch), at Liberty, versus Rhode Island (winnable), Maine (winnable), at Army, and at New Mexico State.

I count four games UMass can win. Can they win more, or will they fail expectations?

Gameday Details

The Minutemen make their way to Doak Campbell Stadium on October 23rd, 2021 to face the Florida State Seminoles. Game time and television broadcast still TBD.

Also check out our other previews for:

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: Jacksonville State

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: Wake Forest

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: Louisville

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: Syracuse

FSU Football 2021 Opponent Preview: North Carolina

Keep up with the latest from Double Fries No Slaw by catching our latest episodes here.

-Ed Kennedy

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