FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The statue of Doug Flutie outside Boston College's Alumni Stadium was playfully defaced this week when someone — presumably by a UMass supporter — draped a Minuteman jersey over it. Flutie retweeted a photo with the comment: "Ew."
That's probably the first time in a long while that the folks in Chestnut Hill gave much thought to their cross-state rivals.
Boston College and UMass will meet in their season openers on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots and the off-campus host for the Minutemen since they moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012. While Boston College spent last year righting itself in the Atlantic Coast Conference and returning to the bowl rotation, UMass has struggled since moving to the FBS as a member of the Mid-American Conference with back-to-back 1-11 records.
So while the game is being billed as "The Battle of the Bay State," UMass has some distance to go before it replaces the Boston University hockey team as a legitimate BC rival.
"Are we ready to play at an ACC level? We will find out," UMass coach Mark Whipple said. "It's a tough opener, but one our guys will be excited about."
UMass hasn't had much of a home-field advantage in the mostly empty stadium it borrows from the Patriots, winning there just once in two seasons. Still, BC coach Steve Addazio was concerned that his players might be awe-struck when they walked into the home of the three-time Super Bowl champions so he brought them down for a quick preview.
"As you would expect, the bus pulled up and the guys were gawking," Addazio said. "They saw it, so now the next time there won't be a lot of that. That's why we did it."
Here are some things to look for in Saturday's game:
HISTORY: The rivalry goes back to 1899, when BC won 18-0. The Eagles hold a 19-5 advantage overall; UMass has not beaten its bigger Bay State brother since 1978, and the Minutemen have won only twice in the series since World War I. The teams have not met since UMass moved to the FBS.
NEW COACH/OLD COACH: Whipple is back at UMass after Charley Molnar went 2-22 in two seasons in Amherst after the Minutemen moved up from the Football Championship Subdivision. Whipple had been the head coach at UMass from 1998-2003, leading them to the Division I-AA national championship in his first season.
NEW QBS: Both teams will start transfers at quarterback: Tyler Murphy came to BC from Florida, where he completed 112 of 185 passes for 1,216 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions before missing the final three games with a sprained throwing shoulder. A Connecticut native, Murphy was recruited to Florida by Addazio when he was an assistant with the Gators. Blake Frohnapfel came to UMass having graduated from Marshall in three years after backing up 2012 Conference USA MVO Rakeem Cato. With Marshall, Frohnapfel was 35 of 53 for 386 yards and five touchdowns.
HOME ON THE ROAD: Although it is technically a road trip for Boston College, the game at the home of the New England Patriots is only about 30 miles from Chestnut Hill — closer to the Eagles' campus than it is to UMass in Amherst almost 100 miles away. It is the first of five straight games that won't require the Eagles to get on a plane before they travel to North Carolina State on Oct. 11.