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Better Know a MAC Opponent: Massachusetts

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Vanderbilt will travel to meet Massachusetts in the second game of a four-year pact between the two teams. What should Commodore fans know about their out-of-conference opponent before Saturday's clash of titans?

This didn't happen often against Wisconsin.
This didn't happen often against Wisconsin.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The School: The University of Massachusetts

Record: 0-3 (1-11 in 2012)

Ranking: 146th in the Real Time RPI (behind 23 I-AA programs), 114th in Warren Nolan's rankings.

Mascot: Minutemen

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts

Conference: MAC (formerly Colonial Athletic Association, formerly Atlantic 10, etc)

In the past 10 years vs. Vanderbilt: In year two of a four-year home-and-home series (!), Vanderbilt is 1-0 against Massachusetts.

The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vanderbilt 49, UMass 7. Brian Kimbrow and Wesley Tate combined for 179 yards in that game, so expect the 'Dores' three-headed running attack to feature prominently in Foxboro.

Most Potent Offensive Threat: Tajae Sharpe. Sharpe doesn't have the greatest quarterback throwing to him - Mike Wegzyn and A.J. Doyle have completed only 53 percent of their passes this season and have twice as many interceptions as touchdown throws - but Sharpe has been a standout despite that. In his last two games, he's hauled in 20 catches and gained 183 yards - 32 percent of his team's total yardage. He'll match up against Vandy's biggest defensive strength thanks to the Commodores stout secondary, but he could end up making an impact as this game wears on.

Most Potent Defensive Threat: Randall Jette. Jette is a redshirt sophomore corner who could create problems for the Vanderbilt passing game thanks to his play out of the defensive backfield. Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis had good things to say about him after their matchup in week one. His unorthodox style helped chip the All-Big Ten receiver, and Abbrederis's two receptions in the game came against Trey Dudley-Gilles rather than Jette. The young corner may be due for a big step up in assignments on Saturday when he faces All-American receiver Jordan Matthews.

Matchup to Watch: Tate, Kimbrow, and Jerron Seymour versus the UMass front seven. Massachusetts does not have a great run defense. In fact, it's a special kind of awful. Through three games, the Minutemen have given up 969 yards on the ground, including four 100-yard performances from individual running backs. Three of those came from Wisconsin's always-insane rushing attack, but the point is clear - Vanderbilt is set up for big time success on the ground on Saturday. Expect all three of Vandy's tailbacks to dial up at least one big play apiece in Foxboro.

Interesting Fact: UMass plays their home games at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, is approximately a two-hour drive away from the UMass campus.

Bonus Fact!: Just to hammer home how stupid this stadium arrangement is: I grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island, and I will be returning there this weekend for the game. I'll be driving up from a city in the center of another entire state and still get to a UMass home game in half the time it will take one of their students.

If Massachusetts wins, we: set Bob Shoop adrift on an ice floe. In no reality, current or alternate, should a competitive Vanderbilt team lose to a UMass squad that was toppled by Maine just two weeks ago. This is the bounce-back game the 'Dores need after another tough loss, and Vandy fans should expect some cathartic scoring on Saturday.