CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Boston College has finished 7-6 in four of head coach Steve Addazio's five seasons, a run of relative mediocrity the program hopes to end in 2018. Much of the Eagles' success - or lack thereof - will depend upon the legs of bruising sophomore running back AJ Dillon, who leads his team into the season opener at home against in-state rival Massachusetts on Saturday.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra. LINE: Boston College -18
Dillon ran for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017 despite opening the year as a backup and is poised to dominate once again behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
"We've got a dynamic running back," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler told reporters of Dillon. "We have a few dynamic running backs in my mind. Any time the defense has to account for the run game, it makes our throw game much better."
The Minutemen were the first team in college football to pick up a win when they crushed FCS squad Duquesne 63-15 last Saturday. Andrew Ford passed for 186 yards and two touchdowns while his backup Ross Comis accounted for three scores for UMass, which has won five of their last seven dating to 2017.
ABOUT MASSACHUSETTS (1-0)
The Minutemen are averaging more than 40 points over their last eight games as the offense continues to take shape under head coach Mark Whipple, but he knows the talent level is about to greatly increase.
"BC is a different beast next week, not to take anything away from Duquesne," Whipple told reporters. "They have bigger guys who are faster."
Bilal Ally gained 109 yards and a TD on the ground while Andy Isabella hauled in five passes for 131 yards and two scores in the rout.
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (2017: 7-6)
Anthony Brown showed flashes of potential as a freshman quarterback - including a breakthrough game at Virginia in which he threw for 275 yards and three TDs - before a knee injury in November ended his campaign, and the New Jersey native looks to be on target with his rehab.
"I've said it a lot, I'm going to say it again: a lot has to do with that trigger man," Addazio told reporters. "Anthony looks great. Hopefully he'll continue on his course back and be ready in the appropriate amount of time."
Defensive lineman Zach Allen emerged as a force in 2017 with a team-high six sacks for a unit that held its final five regular-season opponents to 20 points or fewer.
1. Boston College TE Tommy Sweeney returns after leading the team with 512 receiving yards and four TDs last year.
2. Ford has 11 TD passes and one interception over his last four games.
3. The Eagles won 26-7 in the most recent meeting in 2016.
PREDICTION: Boston College 42, Massachusetts 21