Point/Counterpoint: Does UMass or UConn have a better shot in the Toilet Bowl? 

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College football has truly had an amazing season in 2021. While teams like Alabama and Georgia have performed at top tier levels throughout the year, there is also the opposite side of the spectrum. The University of Connecticut has been absolutely dismal this season and has drawn headlines for the use of three quarterbacks, the firing of head coach Randy Edsall and its 0-5 record on the year. Alongside UConn’s dreadful play, the University of Massachusetts has played just as poorly; their season has included a 50 point loss to Coastal Carolina University  and a 44 point loss to Pittsburgh. Poor performances by both teams have led up to Saturday’s matchup in Massachusetts in what many are deeming the “Toilet Bowl.” An argument arises between whether either of these teams have a better shot in this matchup and the Daily Campus will debate that in this week’s edition of point/counterpoint. 

Evan: UConn has truly had an up and down year for football. If I was asked this question on Sept. 11, I would have said that UMass would have a much better shot in a matchup against the Huskies. However, after close losses to Wyoming and Vanderbilt, I’m heavily encouraged that they will put out a quality performance and take the victory on Saturday. Even with starting quarterback Tyler Phommachanh out indefinitely with a lower leg injury, UConn looked surprisingly great with Krajewski at the helm after the backup’s mediocre play against Purdue. The offense in general has steadily improved with experience and these improvements will come to the test on Saturday. With the poor defense of the Minutemen, the UConn offense should have plenty of ways to get to the endzone. This is the best chance for the Huskies to come out with the team’s first win of the season and it’s hard to believe that head coach Lou Spanos would let a winless UMass team disrespect his squad in this matchup.  

Stratton: First off, I think we can both agree that this is not a matter of who is the better football team, but who is worse. Both teams are regularly featured in the lowest section of the computer and human rankings. The Athletic 130 has the Huskies at 129 and the Minutemen at 130. ESPN’s Bottom 10 has the teams in the two worst spots too. If you had asked before the start of last week how the game would go, I would say that Phommachanh would tear up the sad, disparate UMass defense and pull out victorious. Unfortunately though, Phommachanh is out indefinitely. Although Krajewski looked competent last week against Vanderbilt, he is still not a great option by any means. On the season, his passing splits have not been great, tossing just two touchdowns in two games on three interceptions. His running abilities have been fine, but he should be pretty easy to bottle up if there is any focus put on that aspect. He just isn’t capable enough to lead the team to victory, especially with the way the Huskies defense will fold as the game dwindles down. 

Evan: Krajewski is certainly a great option in this game and I believe he has real potential to grab the win in this matchup. While he’s not the preferred option in a normal situation, UMass is fortunately nowhere near the talent level of Purdue and with how poor the Minutemen defense is, it won’t be so easy for them to contain Krajewski whether he’s throwing in the pocket or running into the endzone. Even if Krajewski somehow runs into trouble with UMass’ defense he still has running back Nate Carter, who’s fresh off his first 100 yard rushing performance. Coming off a matchup where UMass was held to just 134 yards of total offense against Toledo, UConn is in a much better position than they have been throughout this season. The defense has weapons and coach Spanos will simply not tolerate a poor performance against a Minutemen offense that has averaged just 14.6 pts against a plethora of low level competition, with the exception of Coastal Carolina University. Krajewski certainly has a better chance than UMass quarterback Brady Olson, who has been dismal and inefficient for the Minutemen throughout the year. With how stagnant UMass has been throughout the year on the field, I don’t see how they can get any better against an improving Husky squad that is hungry for a win at any cost.  

Stratton: Another thing to consider is that UMass has had a much less favorable draw so far this season as compared to the Huskies. According to the Massey Computer Rankings, the Minutemen have the 17th hardest strength of schedule in the FBS, as compared to 74th for UConn. Granted, neither team has a win, but when comparing the performances of the teams to this point, strength of schedule has to be a reasonably large consideration. Now, let’s look at Brady Olson’s stats in the light that he played one of the 20 hardest schedules in the FBS. All of a sudden, his 6:4 touchdown to interception ratio doesn’t look nearly as bad. If you weren’t aware, UConn will be the easiest opponent he will have faced and the game will be akin to lifting a donut off of a baseball bat, allowing Olson to metaphorically “hit it out of the park.” Also, Olson is just a freshman and is still learning and growing. There’s a great chance he’ll continue to develop and the experience he’s gotten from the tough competition will help him become better, especially when he’s playing a team as weak as the Huskies. At the end of the day, with the help of UConn’s poor defense, Olson will pull through and have a big game, helping Massachusetts maintain possession of the coveted Southwick Jog.  

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