It’s here: After a long offseason, game week has arrived.
UMass coach Mark Whipple participated in his first conference call for the Mid-American Conference on Monday morning, and said his team is excited to kick off the season against in-state rival Boston College at Gillette Stadium (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).
In the debut of our new-look notebook, here are the takeaways in three-and-out fashion:
First down: Whipple and BC defensive coordinator Don Brown go way back, to the early days of their coaching careers. In fact, Whipple hired Brown twice -- at Brown and at UMass.
“He’s just a great person, a great football coach and a tremendous family man,” Whipple said of Brown. “We had a lot of success at Brown, obviously won a national title and had a lot of fun at UMass.”
Whipple, a noted offensive mind, said the two played off each other and “grew up” a lot in their time together.
Second down: As far as the on-field matchup goes, Whipple said he’s partially responsible for some of what fans will see the Eagles do on defense.
“I probably gave [Brown] too many secrets when I was in the NFL [with Pittsburgh], and that might bite me in the tail now,” he said with a laugh. “I gave him some things from Dick LeBeau ... and I’m seeing some of those things show up on tape.
“I just love watching his defense play. They’re aggressive, they have fun and they never take a play off. ... It’ll be interesting come 3 o’clock on Saturday.”
Third down: Whipple praised BC’s commitment to its running attack and had kind words for transfer QB Tyler Murphy.
“They’re a solid ACC team that’s very aggressive on defense,” he said. “An experienced group and solid all the way across. We’ve got our hands full.
“We’ve gotta take care of the ball on offense and try to make some first downs and not give up any big plays on defense. ... We’ll know a lot about ourselves probably after the first quarter. Are we ready to play at an ACC level? Well, we’ll find out. It’s a tough opener but our guys are excited about it.”
Out: In a rarity, the home team in this weekend’s matchup will actually be coming from farther away than the visiting team.
“BC will be excited,” Whipple said. “It’s our home game but they’ll travel less than we will to the stadium.”
It’s roughly 92 miles from McGuirk Stadium in Amherst to Gillette, and only 26 miles from Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill to Gillette.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.