The Falcons travel east Saturday to battle longtime MAC foe Massachusetts … hey, wait a second. Longtime foe?
UMass is a newcomer to the MAC — actually, the Minutemen are a newcomer to FBS football this season, as they begin the transition from FCS status.
But MAC football fans who expect UMass to use the league as a stepping stone to greater "glory," such as previous league carpetbaggers — er, members — Marshall, Central Florida, and Temple, have no need to worry. At least there's no need to worry right away.
UCF and Temple had spent time at the FBS level prior to their arrival and had the football budgets to prove it, while Marshall had stamped itself as an elite FCS school before jumping into the MAC and finding immediate success. UMass, a program that won the FCS national title in 1998 and claimed titles in both the Atlantic-10 and Colonial Athletic Association, hasn't dominated the MAC out of the gate.
As templates go, UMass most closely resembles Temple because of its location, its association with a big-team basketball program, and its early struggles upon entering the MAC. It's not a perfect fit for the league, especially the travel. But in this era of vagabond leagues, sometimes a marriage of convenience can turn into a blessing for both sides.