NEWTON, Mass. -- On the one hand, the teams are the same. On the other hand, they couldn’t be more different.
Yes, Boston College and Miami played in the 2011 season finale, with the Eagles coming home from Florida with a 24-17 win.
Yes, Boston College and Miami will play in the 2012 season opener on Saturday in Chestnut Hill (3:30 p.m., ESPN2).
“People have brought that up a lot,” BC head coach Frank Spaziani said in his weekly conference call with the media. “Last year is last year. It’s totally different circumstances, totally different mindset by both teams.”
In the meantime, Boston College star linebacker Luke Kuechly declared for the NFL draft and was picked No. 9 overall by the Carolina Panthers. Also, BC's offensive coaching staff was virtually entirely overhauled and another new system installed.
In Miami, there was change of a different nature. The Hurricanes lost a staggering 25 seniors to graduation in 2011, meaning they will have to rely heavily on youth in 2012.
“This is a completely different team,” Miami coach Al Golden said in his weekly conference call with reporters. “We have 64 freshmen or sophomores on the roster and 34 in the two deep [depth chart].”
The reliance on young players may seem familiar to Eagles fans, who remember that BC had 28 underclassmen on its two deep last season.
“This is a good team coming in this week,” Eagles safety Jim Noel said. “Some people say that they’re still young and that they’re in our position. But they’re still a good team, they’ve got a lot of speed, which people always talk about. They have a good quarterback in Stephen Morris.”
Morris is replacing Jacory Harris, who threw for 2,486 yards and 20 TDs in 2011. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound junior has just five games of starting experience. Senior Mike James and freshman Duke Johnson will take over for Lamar Miller, who rushed for 1,272 yards and nine TDs.
“They definitely have athletes all over the place, we definitely have to contain ‘em, keep ‘em from getting outside,” defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey said.
The Eagles know they have a tough test to pass right out of the gate. Opening with an ACC opponent means there’s no room for error early on.
They don’t seem daunted.
“It’s great,” left tackle Emmett Cleary said. “I’m not saying out-of-conference games aren’t motivating, but nothing gets you going during some of the doldrums of camp or summer workouts like knowing you’ve got a big ACC game first on deck. So it’s been great.”
And besides, as Spaziani has noted many times this preseason, the Hurricanes are in the same position.
BC wants to build on the win from last season, but it’s unclear just how much they can draw on that game.
“It’s a new year, so it’s just gonna be a totally different game,” Chase Rettig said. “I think the first game is really important to the outcome of the rest of the season just because it can jump-start you into the rest of the year.”
Ramsey knows how the Eagles fare against the Canes will serve as a benchmark for the season.
“It’s not gonna define our season, but it’ll tell us where we have to go,” he said.
That’s the kind of perspective that comes with experience. Spaziani & Co. will have to make sure the rest of the still-young roster understands exactly what the stakes are.
“The trappings around it can be a little bit overwhelming,” Spaziani said. “It’s one of 12 games, you still have to remember that. No matter what happens on Saturday, the next Saturday we’re playing another game.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.