When the news broke that Mississippi State will be traveling to UMass to complete their 2016 schedule, I was as surprised as you were. Why would Mississippi State, a team that won ten games last year and made an Orange Bowl appearance, have to travel to UMass? However, after looking into it, I have come to realize that all of it makes sense.
Many of the fans that are against this decision are accusing Scott Stricklin of "poor scheduling". Well, Stricklin had no choice. He wanted seven home games. He tried to get seven home games, but he wasn't able to do it. Tulane dropped out at the last moment, and there wasn't much time to schedule a home FBS opponent. Almost all of the FBS teams have finalized their 2016 schedules, and to quote Scott Stricklin, "this late date made it problematic."
UMass was in a pretty strange situation. The Minutemen joined the MAC in 2012 as an affiliate member, being a part of the conference in only football. They announced in early 2014 that the program will leave the MAC following the 2015 season, which makes them an independent for 2016. Because of this, they needed to schedule another home 2016 game, in addition to the three they already had, in order to meet FBS rules.
There was one team that many Mississippi State fans wanted to schedule in 2016, and that was UAB. After announcing that they're shutting down their football program, UAB said that they will be bringing it back. This was national news, giving joy to fan bases all over the country. When this was announced, Bulldog fans wanted UAB to be the last opponent scheduled for 2016. Well, there would be many problems with that.
A majority of their players are no longer with the team. They either graduated, went pro, or transferred to other schools. Many national writers are saying that UAB "gave themselves the death penalty" as a result of their shutting down the program. They're going to need time to recruit players in order to rebuild the program. They said that there is a possibility of the team hitting the field in 2016, but that is not a guarantee. With the situation that UAB is in, the chances of that happening are pretty slim.
Another thing to take into account is that Mississippi State will start adding power five opponents to their schedule. For 2016, the Bulldogs will travel to Provo, Utah to play BYU. With that being said, it's good for Mississippi State to play an opponent that will be more than likely a win, home or away.
To wrap up, when Tulane dropped out of Mississippi State's schedule, Scott Stricklin had to act fast in order to find one last opponent. It was completely unexpected and surprising when the Green Wave dropped out. But, when you look at the circumstances that Mississippi State was given, scheduling UMass was as good as State could've done.