Every Monday, we will preview and recap weekly topics from around the state. Here is our second installment. Enjoy.
Last week, we noted how UMass had to come out against Duquesne and act like the bowl team it aspired to be.
Well, mission accomplished for the Minutemen in that respect. No, the Dukes aren't going to scare anyone, but the fact that UMass dominated so thoroughly is reason for optimism in Amherst.
Now, as we approach next Saturday's game against Boston College, MassVarsity has finally seen both teams: BC in scrimmages, and UMass in a game.
Here are a few early observations on how the teams match up:
— Although UMass had some success stopping the run against Duquesne, the Eagles should be able to move the ball on the ground effectively. Duquesne never fully committed to it like the Eagles will, and obviously BC is better up front and in the backfield.
— That said, if UMass can force BC into obvious passing situations, the Minutemen are better equipped to hold up than previous years. Cornerback Lee Moses was excellent in man coverage against Duquesne, and safety Brice McAllister looks like he will have a big season as well.
— BC's front seven won't let UMass quarterbacks Andrew Ford or Ross Comis sit back and take their time in the pocket like they did against Duquesne. Even though this is UMass' best offensive line since making the FBS jump, you have to give the upper hand to BC's ends Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen.
— It will be interesting to see how UMass attacks the BC defense. Even though the Eagles have a terrific secondary, those short crossers with receivers Andy Isabella and Brennon Dingle won't be easy to shut down. The Minutemen will challenge BC's cornerback depth with their empty sets.
We'll make our prediction on Friday, but this should be an entertaining take.
Bits and pieces from MIAA scrimmages
The MIAA had its opening weekend of scrimmages, and although we could not make it to any of them, we picked up some reports from around the state about what players and teams looked like at this early stage.
— From what we were told, the Everett-Springfield Central matchup was chippy, but the usual suspects looked strong for both teams. Cornerback Keshaun Dancy and linebacker Tyson Thornton impressed for Central, while Everett's deep group of offensive weapons showed out.
— One onlooker told us that Duxbury's offensive line looked "huge" in its matchup with Dennis-Yarmouth. That is nothing new. Same person said the scrimmage was not the most physical battle, but was impressed with the Dragons' front seven and Dennis-Yarmouth's secondary.
— The Xaverian-Bridgewater-Raynham passing scrimmage reportedly revealed what we already knew about the Trojans, which is that they're going to be young. Still, by the end of the season, don't count them out.
— We were able to view bits of the Brockton-St. John's of Shrewsbury scrimmage online, and what's fairly evident is that the senior-laden lines for the Boxers will be their strength. Also, Pioneers wide receiver Eamonn Dennis is as tough as he is fast, as he bounced up quick from some heavy hits by the Brockton defensive backs.
Brief Northeast-10 primer
The two games to keep the closest eye on this weekend as Northeast-10 ball opens play are West Chester at Bentley Thursday night and Kutztown at Assumption on Saturday.
Assumption enters the game ranked No. 17 in the nation, while Kutztown is coming off an 8-3 season that included a 31-28 loss to the Greyhounds in last year's opener.
This is an important statement game for Assumption in head coach Andy McKenzie's first fall leading the Greyhounds, and like last year, expect a close one.
West Chester hammered Bentley last year, 51-9, and it will be interesting to see how far the Falcons have come since then. Still, the third-ranked team in the Northeast-10 preseason poll should be a heavy underdog again.
As we said last week, the best local take in Division 3 might be when Western New England visits Springfield College Friday night.
The Pride should have one of the best rushing attacks in the country, as four of five starting offensive linemen return. A year ago, Springfield amassed 435.2 yards per game on the ground, tops in the nation. Keep an eye on North Attleboro native Nick Rajotte, who may take over the starting tailback spot.
When Western New England wants to run, watch Peter Hoff, who rushed for 549 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.
Springfield won this game 35-21 last season, and this should be another competitive tilt.
Are you not entertained?
We try to mix in one at least non-football way to pass the time here.
While we highlighted a comedy last week in "Tag," on the recommendation from Masslive's Alexandra Francisco Saturday night, we're going with something considerably darker in 2017's "Wind River," currently on Netflix streaming.
Set mostly on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, without giving away too many spoilers, the story juxtaposes the plight of Native women and ever-present racial tensions over a more traditional revenge plot.
Through the course of the film, Jeremy Renner, playing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, shows off some of his best stuff, as do federal agent Elizabeth Olsen and grieving father Gil Birmingham.
Screenwriter/director Taylor Sheridan — who also wrote "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" — again displays his skill for terse, steely dialogue.
This is not easy to watch, but if you can stomach some of the more disturbing, violent scenes, you'll come away with a deep appreciation for one of the more underrated movies from a year ago.
We predicted it last week, and we still feel that there won't be an undefeated team in MIAA Division 1 or the ISL. From the little feedback we've received from the MIAA scrimmages, we feel even more confident in that take than before.