For fans of the Atlantic Coast Conference, there will be few more marquee games in college football's opening week than when the Miami Hurricanes take their talents to Massachusetts and take on the longtime rival Boston College Eagles.
Though both schools come with name value that should appeal to the masses, each program comes into 2012 looking to atone for poor performances in the previous season.
Miami is led by second-year head coach Al Golden and a cavalcade of young talent. The Hurricanes had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and it seems Golden is ready to deploy them early and often against Boston College.
On the other sideline will be Frank Spaziani, who led the Eagles to their first losing record since 1998 last season. Winning at home against a big rival would go a long way toward getting the BC coach off the hot seat.
With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about the Miami-Boston College matchup.
When: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
According to Bet Online's sportsbook, the Hurricanes come into Saturday as 2.5-point favorites over Boston College. Adjusting for the three-point home favorite standard, that means the oddsmakers are saying Miami is 5.5 points better in their opinion than the Eagles.
Regardless, the nice part about this line is that it's essentially a straight-up pick 'em. Though a victor of less than three points happens, it's not a likely scenario. For my money, I'm taking the Eagles at home here.
Neither side here boasts a particularly impressive offense, and that's reflected in the current 44-point over/under currently at Bet Online. For me, this is most likely a stay-away bet because of the uncertainty surrounding Miami's talented but extremely young core.
If you need to make a pick in this, take the over. Offenses tend to be a little further along at this point in the season, and 44 points is one of the lowest over/unders of the week.
Miami Injury Report (via USA Today)
DL Curtis Porter, Appendix, Questionable
LB Raphael Kirby, Leg, Out
OL Seantrel Henderson, Concussion, Out
Boston College Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Rolandan Finch, Foot, Questionable
TE Mike Naples, Undisclosed, Doubtful
DB Al Louis-Jean Jr., Foot, Out
TE Chris Pantale, Ankle, Out
With neither team having the slightest blip on the rankings radar, let alone the BCS race, this game will likely mean little in long-term implications.
Though both Boston College and Miami are schools with hallowed traditions, it's a down time for both programs. Eagles coach Frank Spaziani enters the season firmly planted on the hot seat, and his counterpart Golden has a program still reeling in the aftermath of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
With three of the top 16 teams in the land residing in the ACC, this game has an infinitely higher chance of determining which team plays in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl.
(And yes, I chose that particular bowl game because of its preposterously long name.)
Keys for Miami
Though a victory is obviously the goal anytime the Hurricanes take the field, this season is more about gaining experience and building the core going forward than anything.
Miami has just five starting seniors on the roster, and Golden has said as many as 15 freshmen will play on Saturday (via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel).
Strictly speaking for Saturday, all eyes should be on one young man: quarterback Stephen Morris.
Morris comes into 2012 as the starter but certainly not with long-term job security. The junior signal-caller was the favorite coming into camp but hasn't seen extended game action since throwing for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns against nine interceptions as a freshman in 2010.
Still hoping to usurp his teammate's starting job is redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams, who gained a groundswell of support after an impressive spring game. For Morris to keep this job through the season, he'll have to instill confidence in the coaching staff by coming out strong.
If not, he could be on the bench by the second half against the Eagles.
Keys for Boston College
While there is no quarterback controversy for BC, the Eagles come into the season hoping to find some form of offensive explosion this season.
Leading the offensive charge is junior quarterback Chase Rettig, who will need to improve on his paltry performance in 2011 if his team hopes to compete. With nearly two years of starting experience under his belt, Rettig has reached the point where he'll either have to become a leader or give way to a young guy.
With leading rusher Montel Harris being let go for rules violations during the offseason, Rettig is more vital to the cause than ever.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, secondary is one of a select few spots where the Hurricanes actually have both talent and experience. It won't be easy for the young signal-caller, but his team will need a strong performance to come out on top.
If I'm picking Boston College against the spread, that obviously means I'm taking them to win the game outright. Despite a bevy of young talent, the Hurricanes playing 15 freshmen just feels too risky.
With the Eagles at home, I see a nice game from Rettig and a relatively easy win on Saturday.
Score: Boston College 28, Miami 17
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