With Saturday fast approaching, I had a chance to sit down with BC Interruption writer Dan Rubin to talk about the upcoming tilt between the Massachusetts Minutemen and the Boston College Eagles. Dan wanted to play nice, but I egged him on until he was in BC fan mode. Even then, he was still a pleasure (unfortunately, since I really want to hate all BC fans).
Hustle Belt: The Eagles had a big turnaround last year, jumping from two wins to seven wins, but lost some key personnel, including both their starting quarterback and starting running back from 2013. What do you expect from the Eagles this year?
Dan Rubin: We honestly have no idea. BC returned all of three guys on the offense, and they're all offensive linemen. But then again we assumed the team would stink last year and Steve Addazio turned them all into winners. So whoever comes in probably has some talent, it's just a matter of game planning and coaxing it out of them.
Even though there isn't a ton of in game experience together, there are flashes. We know there's skill at the running back position with Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis. There's some solid recruits in Jonathan Hilliman and Sherman Alston. And there's an O-Line that is big and nasty.
So there's optimism especially based off last year's results in a similar situation. But there's also cautious optimism. We're not expecting this team to win 12 games but they're not going to be a 3-9 team either, at least not on paper. And as we all know, predictions on paper are definitely how things turn out.
HB: I tend two find there are two types of BC fans for this game, those who are excited for the start of football and those who are annoyed that the Eagles have to play the Minutemen. Which side do you fall on and why won't some BC fans embrace an interstate rivalry?
DR: I'm actually a third type of fan because I like that BC is playing UMass. I grew up with a genuine dislike of Amherst so this is fun for me. But I have a history dating back to when Chris Herren eviscerated the Mullins center with Fresno State in basketball, growing up in Boston as a BC fan (Herren was originally a BC recruit, which at the time I was like eight, so I mean.... He was always a BC guy for me at that age). And as much as UMass fans talk about how smug BC fans are, they go crazy if you insinuate that they're not national contenders.
I'm almost positive that Herren game is in the record books, unless it was wiped out when UMass had to vacate Marcus Camby's diamond earrings.
As for other BC fans, they view the schedule with much larger opponents. If you want to be a BMOC (Big Man On Campus), you want to beat USC. UMass is an opening game against a 1-11 team that leads into a schedule with USC, Florida state, and Clemson. You obviously can't overlook them, but in the grand scheme of the year, there are a lot of opponents with much better resumes.
For UMass this is the Super Bowl. All their ads are for this "Battle for the Bay State." That's nice and all, but I thought we decided western Massachusetts was going to be given to New York for a pizza to be named later.
HB: I'm with you, nothing beats some friendly hate, especially when it means beating BC at the TD Garden and making Eagles fans delude themselves into thinking they could sign Shaka Smart. But back to Football, do you think having a more competent UMass team would be beneficial to BC and the area? If UConn and UMass get their acts together and BC continues to trend upwards, the Northeast could start returning to football relevance.
DR: Massachusetts is such a saturated atmosphere for sports that you have to be elite to compete for space. That said, the concept of space is changing considerably in modern media. It's a lot easier to get coverage now because there's more school and sport specific blogs and websites.
To the original point, though, I don't know how much UMass and UConn will be able to help the landscape with the new setup of college football. It would be great if they all won their leagues and I think it would drive some conversation, but unless they can step up and play the ACC, it might not happen because of the chasm in perception in the NCAA.
Believe me, I would love to see it happen, but with the American finding itself out of the power leagues and the Minutemen playing in the....whatever league they'll play in after the MAC, it's unlikely to help drive interest up.
Couple the fact that BC is playing Notre Dame at Fenway and also hasa a blossoming rivalry with Syracuse, the market is pretty packed.
That said, I REALLY DO WANT UMass to be competitive and provide a good rivalry for the state and for UConn to provide that for New England. It would be beneficial to get the whole state talking if it could happen. I'm just not hopeful that it will.
HB: BC is favored by 15 points going into this game. What's your prediction on how this will play out, and will BC cover?
DR: I'm giving UMass the benefit of the doubt that playing in front of all 17 of their fans in the biggest home game in program history is a big deal. I'll go out on a limb and say Mark Whipple is a good coach, a guy I wanted at BC back in 2007.
But I don't see it. UMass maybe keeps it close in the first half, but BC pulls away in the third. Up 17-14, BC puts an opening drive touchdown away to make it 24-14, but gets a defensive touchdown or two to pull away. Fourth quarter is anticlimactic and BC wins, 38-17. Whoever wins the third wins the game.
HB: Let's wrap it up by trying to make you say something good about UMass, which will hopefully ruin your day. Who scares you the most on this UMass team, the x-factor that might lead UMass to victory.
DR: The X Factor for UMass has to be Whipple. He's like if you gave Dale Earnhardt the keys to a Chevy Nova. Could he win the race? No. But that doesn't mean he can't wreck someone in the process. Whipple is going to bring it and the team will be prepared. But he's just been left with shelves more bare than Market Basket this week.
I hope that was a great way to slime out of the question. It was either Whipple or Sam The Minuteman, who legit has the scariest smile I've ever seen. He looks like he should be forced to stay 400 yards from the stadium because kids are there.
HB: A BC fan being slimy, a great way to end it. Thank you for being such a good sport, truly. I'd say good luck to you this Saturday, but I don't want that.