Saturday is the second installment of the Battle Of The Bay State. Today we talked with Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. He knows the UMass program inside and out. Make sure to check him out on Twitter as well.
BCI: UMass kept it close against Florida in the Swamp on Saturday. What did they do that keep the Gators off balance?
Matt: I think UMass improved more defensively during the offeseason than people might have expected. Da'Sean Downey was terrific at linebacker and Teddy Lowery, a safety/LB hybrid made a lot of plays. Florida took some dumb penalties, which helped, but overall I thought UMass didn't look overwhelmed by the moment.
BCI: Obviously the big news this past year has been UMass leaving the MAC. How is the program dealing with it's independence and where do you see them landing in a few years?
Matt: The MAC forced UMass to choose between either bringing it's entire athletic department into the league or pulling football out of it. The MAC isn't a good enough football conference to sacrifice the rest of your department and specifically basketball, but putting it in a bad conference.
For now UMass is trying to schedule both effectively and flexibly so they'll have a schedule, but at the same time they'd be able to jump if a conference was interested.
I know UMass would like to play American Athletic Conference football. But I don't have a real guess until the Big 12 makes its move.
BCI: Offense typically hasn't been a problem for UMass and Mark Whipple. Blake Frohnapfel and Tajae Sharpe are gone this year though, tell us a little about the Minutemen's new QB and some of his weapons.
Matt: The new QB is sophomore Ross Comis. The coaching staff likes his poise, decision making and athleticism, but other than tailback Marquis Young, he's surrounded by question marks at skill positions. Sophomore Andy Isabella looked really good at wide receiver at Florida, but I think things are still shaking out.
BCI: What is the feeling around the program right now in terms of the upcoming matchup with the Eagles? Does the program get excited about the Battle of the Bay State
Matt: I think UMass fans enjoy a matchup with BC anytime they play in football, basketball or hockey. I think people inside the program recognize that a good showing would help get some skeptics interested in the program.
BCI: Alright prediction time.....What have you got?
Matt: I think until UMass wins a big game, I'm not ready to predict that it will. I think BC will win, but I'm curious how the Minutemen build off of last week.