Every Friday, we will predict a handful of the weekend's biggest games. With MIAA kickoff still a week away, we'll just delve into the next level, with the headliner of course when UMass visits Boston College on Saturday at 1 p.m.
This week, we are going to pick that, plus Holy Cross at Colgate, Kutztown at Assumption, and Western New England at Springfield.
Let's get to it.
UMass at Boston College
As BC coach Steve Addazio said during a press conference this week, UMass is better than it has ever been since he took over at The Heights. Then again, you're also talking about probably the best BC team Addazio's had in that span.
For UMass to pull the upset, the Minutemen will have to sell out to stop AJ Dillon on early downs and force quarterback Anthony Brown into throwing on third and long. If Dillon consistently picks up chunks on first and second down, this isn't going to go well for the Minutemen.
Conversely, stopping UMass will hold its own challenges for BC. Although Andrew Ford is your likely starter at quarterback, both he and Ross Comis can throw effectively, and the speed at receiver for the Minutemen gives them a chance here. What BC must do is get defensive ends Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen into the backfield and force Ford and Comis out of their comfort zone.
Look for both teams to find success moving the ball early, and don't be surprised to see UMass pull ahead in the first half. But as the game progresses, that huge BC offensive line will make its presence felt, and Dillon take over. The Eagles will know they've been tested, but they should come out victorious.
Prediction: Boston College 30, UMass 21
Holy Cross at Colgate
The Crusaders make the trek up to Hamilton, N.Y. for a 1 p.m. test on Saturday against a team that buried last year's Holy Cross team in Worcester, 45-7.
Many of the leading figures in that blowout win return for the Raiders, including sophomore quarterback Grant Breneman and senior wide receivers Thomas Ives and Owen Rockett, the latter a Marblehead native who played at St. John's Prep.
But as Bob Chesney starts his FCS career for the Crusaders, the former Assumption coach is looking to win now, not later. They'll feature an up-tempo attack with experienced receivers like Blaise Bell, Martin Dorsey and Richie DeNicola, as Chesney wants the offense to run as many plays as possible and outpace opposing defenses.
This should be a game that Colgate wins based off last year's result, but something tells us the Crusaders want to make a statement in Chesney's first game.
Prediction: Holy Cross 35, Colgate 31
Kutztown at Assumption
This should be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend, as the Greyhounds will play host on Saturday at 1 p.m. to a team they beat, 31-28, last year.
Kutztown went 8-3 last season and won five of its last six games. Even though Assumption comes in as the ranked team (No. 17 in the AFCA Coaches poll), the Greyhounds cannot take their opponent lightly.
The difference in this game could be Assumption senior Deonte Harris, who is a threat both at receiver and in the return game. Look for him to break one or two big plays, and the Greyhounds to slip by with the opening win.
Prediction: Assumption 27, Kutztown 24
Western New England at Springfield
There won't be a lot of fancy stuff coming out of this Division 3 showdown between two of the best programs in New England when they meet Friday night at 7 p.m.
This will come down to a simple question: Can Western New England slow down the Springfield rushing attack, which was the best in the nation a year ago?
The four returning starters on the Springfield offensive line — seniors Tim Christensen and Brennan Fleming, and juniors Nick Bainter and Jeremy Lipsky — should decide whether or not the Pride can enforce their will over the course of the game.
Expect that unit to find its rhythm by the third and fourth quarters as the Pride come away with the Week 1 victory.
Prediction: Springfield 28, Western New England 24