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UConn football vs. UMass Minutemen: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

The Huskies look to become one win closer to bowl eligibility under the Friday night lights.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

ANNOUNCERS: Meghan McPeak (play-by-play), Christian Fauria (color analyst), Justin Walters (sideline)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network; Varsity Network App; 97.9 ESPN Hartford, WGCH 1490 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WATR 1320 AM, WILI 1400 AM and 95.3 FM, WICH 1310 AM and 94.5 FM

ANNOUNCERS: Mike Crispino (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Adam Giardino (sideline)

RECORDS: UConn (4-5), UMass (1-7)

LAST WEEK: The Huskies beat Boston College, 13-3; UMass lost to New Mexico State, 23-13


OVER/UNDER: 40 (odds via DraftKings)

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and UMass Minutemen have met 75 times on the gridiron. The Minutemen hold a 38-35-2 record against the Huskies.


PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE(S): UConn head coach Jim Mora


Fun With Numbers

100: Total tackles by Jackson Mitchell, who was named a Butkus Award semifinalist on Tuesday afternoon. He’s tied for second-best in FBS

11.1: Tackles per game by Mitchell, which is fourth-best in FBS

3: Recovered fumbles by Mitchell, which ties him for tops in FBS

6: Fumbles recovered by UConn defense, which ties them for 37th in FBS

4: UConn and UMass have played four times as FBS opponents, with each team winning twice

20: Ranking of UConn’s red zone offense which has converted 20-22 scoring opportunities (90.9%)

14: Red zone touchdowns by UConn (eight rushing, six passing)

.235: Percentage of fourth-down conversions allowed by UConn defense (4-for-17), which is sixth-best in FBS

What to Watch For

Looking for more than just a win

Jim Mora’s Huskies have shown us that they know how to win. Four wins in nine is as many as the Huskies have managed in three prior seasons under head coach Randy Edsall, and are coming off their first win over Boston College in school history, which was also their first win over a Power 5 program since 2016.

But against UMass, UConn football is dealing with something that’s alien to them for the majority of the season so far: High expectations. The spread for this Friday’s game is nearly as large as the spread was against Central Connecticut State, an FCS team that currently sits at 1-7, in the doldrums of the Northeast Conference. Coming into this week, UConn has fans hoping for a big win, but that’s not how offensive coordinator Nick Charlton has rolled so far in his UConn tenure.

In wins against Fresno State and BC, UConn’s offense has played it extremely conservative, only putting up the points needed to get a win. Sometimes that has played to their advantage (their win over FIU, where a series of turnovers led to the Huskies pulling away) and sometimes it has come back to bite them, like when Ball State manufactured a second-half comeback with UConn punting or turning the ball over on every drive in the second half. UConn might very well beat UMass on Friday, but opening up the offense and blowing them out would show a different dimension of this UConn team.

The gang’s (maybe) all here

If UConn football is to blow out UMass on Friday night, they’ll have some returning help in the process. 2021’s leading wideout Keelan Marion could set to return this week, according to Jim Mora, after his fakeout return against Boston College where he was active but got injured on the first play of the game. Devontae Houston, UConn’s home run-threat running back, is also nearing full health after missing the past two games for the Huskies. Despite only playing in five games for the Huskies, Houston is poised to become their leading rusher on the season this Friday, with 6.7 yards per carry on the year.

In addition to Marion and Houston, there’s an off chance UConn might see the return of another player that was intended to be a key cog in their offense before the season started.

Cam Ross was poised to be the Huskies’ No. 1 wideout before the start of the 2021 season until he broke his foot, then broke his other foot before this season was poised to kick off. Ross is a weapon who, along with Marion, can deliver something that UConn football has sorely missed: separation down the field. Only one other team in the nation has an average depth of target closer to the line of scrimmage than UConn’s, so the deep threat of Marion — and Ross, if he’s healthy — would give Charlton and Zion Turner a different option on deep balls.