Spring games are fun to watch. So are scrimmages. They're all football, but none of the points tallied really count for anything.
Now they do.
With Boston College, UMass, and Holy Cross all getting started this weekend, we can finally offer some predictions and get the ball rolling on the real games.
Last year our predictions were, at best, mediocre. This weekend's matchups we feel we have a pretty good read on, but we are just looking for improvement.
Let's get to it.
UMass at Rutgers
You can find this on the Big Ten network at 7:15 tonight, and you can bet on a high number of UMass fans tuning in to get their first glimpse of what new coach Walt Bell brings to the table.
So far, Bell has done a lot of the right things. He's recruited well. He's generated a lot of excitement around the program, both locally and in key footprints around the country where he hopes to get more players from. The current ones seem to have bought into his system.
Those are the pluses going into tonight. The minuses are the Minutemen will be starting a new quarterback in a new offense, on the road, against a Power 5 opponent that, while coming off an awful season last year, really should win this game and has been favored all offseason to do so.
This is also a UMass team that is young and thin along the defensive line. Stopping the run was a major deficiency last year, and that doesn't improve with youth and low depth at the point of attack.
We have been high on the linebacker unit since the spring, though. If it can help hold up in that respect, UMass will have a chance. The offense will aim to use its tempo to try and wear the Rutgers defense down, and we feel the Minutemen are good enough on the ground to do that.
Prediction: UMass 20, Rutgers 17
Holy Cross at Navy
This one, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the CBS Sports Network, will be the toughest of the three locals to come away with a win.
Right now, although Holy Cross has some nice weapons out wide, the Crusaders had the most success last year running the ball, and return a good stable of backs. If they stick with that, they should find some success moving the ball.
It's stopping the Midshipmen from doing the same that will be the hard part. Navy is traditionally used to beating teams with its option that have more talent on defense than Holy Cross.
We think any Bob Chesney-coached team will find a way to be competitive in a game like this. Even though Navy is a Football Bowl Subdivision team and Holy Cross is not, Chesney's second year at Assumption was a big step up from its first, and that could be the case here, too.
That said, we think this opener won't be the place where that starts to happen in the won-loss column.
Prediction: Navy 28, Holy Cross 20
Virginia Tech at Boston College
This one kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday on the ACC Network, and Virginia Tech has been favored all offseason. The line has even moved up a bit since the summer, which has had us a little perplexed all along.
BC won last year's game in Blacksburg, 31-21, and return enough to do the same. Running back AJ Dillon is healthy and running behind an offensive line that his simply reloaded, and quarterback Anthony Brown has even better weapons to work with in the passing game than last year, as the Eagles are ready to find ways to get the ball in electric true freshman Zay Flowers' hands.
We can see a little why Virginia Tech is getting love from Vegas. The defense, in legendary coordinator Bud Foster's last year, has tons of experience, and will be playing its best to send him out on a good note.
BC may have a bit of the same issue on defense as UMass — although not to the same extent — when it comes to standing up at the point of attack. The Eagles are smaller and less experienced on the defensive line than they were a year ago.
Still, this is the type of game the Eagles need to be victorious in if coach Steve Addazio can lead his program to more than seven wins for the first time in his now seventh year in Chestnut Hill. We think they get that first one out of the way this weekend.
Prediction: BC 23, Virginia Tech 21