Both UMass and Boston College enter the second week of their respective seasons 0-1, but the morale of the two programs is completely different.
The Minutemen went down to Gainesville and hung admirably with Florida for four quarters in a 24-7 loss. For UMass, now in its fifth season in the FBS, it was the most competitive season opener since making the jump from the FCS level. It was the type of moral victory the Minutemen, which have won just eight games in the last four years, can build on going forward.
Meanwhile, Boston College is coming off of a loss to Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland, that it easily could have won and used to put aside the poor memories from last year's winless ACC season. Holding a late 14-10 lead, the Eagles gave up a last-minute touchdown to the Yellow Jackets on a drive that included a fourth-and-19 conversion.
Now the Eagles have to recover from the jet lag of the long plane ride to face a UMass team that will easily have the emotional advantage because of its momentum and desire to prove that it belongs on the same stage as its in-state foe.
Boston College vs. UMass (at Gillette Stadium)
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Boston College -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Big uglies
Although it didn't get the desired result, the Boston College offensive line showed improvement over last season in the loss to Georgia Tech. The unit, which battled youth and injury woes a year ago, blocked well and paved the way for a 5.93 yards per play average, which is an upgrade from last season's 4.4 mark. Specifically, getting explosive running back Jon Hilliman back to form with 102 yards rushing, including a 73-yard touchdown, on 17 carries, bodes well. Although the Minutemen won't enter the game with as much name recognition as Georgia Tech, their front seven did an excellent job of pressuring Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio and outplaying the Gators' offensive line. BC should hold the advantage up front on offense, but it won't be as overwhelming as in years' past.
2. On the fast track
If the Minutemen want to stay in this game and possibly pull off the upset, they'll have to sneak a few big plays past a BC defense that remains one of the best in the country despite the loss of defensive coordinator Don Brown to Michigan. One way UMass can do that is to get the ball in the hands of sophomore wide receiver Andy Isabella, who broke out in a big way against the Gators with 95 yards, including a long of 53, on three receptions. A 5-foot-9, 186-pounder out of Mayfield, Ohio, Isabella is a track standout who runs the 100-meter dash in 10.51 seconds and outran the Gator defensive backs when given the chance. If he can do it against the Florida secondary, he can do it against BC's.
3. Kick in the gut
If this game is close in the fourth quarter, look for UMass to have a bit of an advantage due to kicker Colton Lichtenberg's struggles. The BC kicker has not found much success, and last Saturday was no different with two missed field goals, one blocked and the other a 35-yarder missed after an ill-fated decision by BC head coach Steve Addazio to kick it on fourth-and-1. Simply put, he has to find a way to either get his confidence back or improve his accuracy to keep this bad situation from getting worse. The Eagles look better on offense, but not to the point where they can afford such bad special teams play.
There is plenty of reason to expect an upset here. UMass quarterback Ross Comis looked poised and confident against a good Florida defense last week and the Minutemen contained the Gators well enough to stay in the game much longer than most expected. Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming in off of an emotional tailspin. That said, Florida let UMass hang around with a number of silly penalties, extending UMass drives that would otherwise have been cut short. Don't expect the Eagles to make as many mental mistakes. Although Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles is a better athlete than Del Rio, the Eagles' signal-caller is mistake-prone and a turnover risk when pressured. This expects to be another low-scoring battle, and the longer the Minutemen stay in it, the more their positive momentum from a week ago promises to carry over. However, BC likely still has a little more strength on the offensive line to assert its will and put it away late over the improving Minutemen.
Prediction: Boston College 14, UMass 10
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.