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Maza’s Monday Musings: What about a Springfield hockey regional?

(Note: I’d like to apologize to my readers, all eight of you, for the prolonged hiatus. Expect consistent postings from now on. Thanks for reading!)

Perhaps it’s because I just spent a weekend on the road to catch a home-and-home series between Boston College (BC) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) that decided the Hockey East regular season title.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent the last month following the “Bracketology” blog on United States College Hockey Online’s Web site (USCHO.com). Perhaps it’s because I still believe Springfield is a hockey city and would always love to see more of the sport in it.
For whatever reason, a question that I’ve had for the past few years has found itself swimming around my brain again: Why couldn’t Springfield host a Division 1 National Hockey Tournament regional?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) shifted from a twelve-team field, which featured an East and West Regional until 2003, when it switched to a 16-team field and divided the tournament into four regions – East, Northeast, West and Midwest. At each site, which differ from year-to-year, a local Division 1 team plays host.

UNH vs. Boston College
Imagine the excitement of an NCAA tournament clash between Boston College and UNH in Springfield.

Since then, the Northeast regional has taken place in either Worcester or Manchester, N.H., with the exception of 2005 whenthe University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) played host at the Mullins Center. This year’s Northeast regional will once again be in Manchester.
The East regional has been in Albany three times since 2003, while Providence, R.I, Worcester, Rocherster, N.Y. and Bridgeport, Conn., have all hosted regionals. Bridgeport is this year’s location for the East regional.
So why not Springfield?
Springfield has the facility. The MassMutual Center’s arena seats 6,789  people for a hockey game. Last year’s Northeast regional drew somewhere around 6,500 fans, with eventual champion Boston College being a major draw. The East regional in Albany drew about 4,000 people. In addition to the arena itself, the convention center can offer myriad options for extra attractions.
Springfield is in a good location, geographically, at the crossroads of I-90 and I-91. I-90, the longest interstate in the country, stretches from coast to coast and passes by or through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New York, states that regularly have teams that are part of the tournament. I-91 intersects with I-95, which runs the length of the East Coast.
While teams travel charter for longer trips, the accessibility for fans who may drive to follow their team is paramount in generating attendance, which the tournament has had trouble doing in certain regions in the past.
In addition, a major international airport sits less than 20 miles to the south and Amtrak service runs through the city.
Springfield has local teams that could play host. UMass obviously isn’t technically in Springfield, but Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire aren’t located in Manchester, either. Both have hosted regionals. In addition to UMass, American International College (AIC) is a Division 1 program, representing the Atlantic Hockey Association.
So why should college hockey come to Springfield? For the same reasons people have lauded the presence of the NCAA Division II basketball Elite Eight in the city and the future presence of the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference’s tournament.
Tournaments, especially major ones, can bring an influx of people, and, as a result, money, into the area. Whether in hotels, restaurants, bars or shops, an increase in clientele is never a bad thing.
From a sports fan’s standpoint, it’s great hockey. While all the regions have seen terrific competition, some of the tournament’s most memorable games have taken place in the Northeast.
Last year’s crowd in the Worcester watched BC and Yale battle for the Northeast regional championship, which the Eagles won in a 9-7 shootout. The year before, spectators in Manchester were treated to two terrific games – a 6-5 overtime win for UNH over North Dakota and a 2-1 win by Boston University over the Wildcats the next day, a game that was decided on a deflection off a UNH player’s glove into the net with seconds remaining.
In 2005, Amherst was the site of two first-round overtime games – a 3-2 victory for UNH over Harvard and a 4-3 win for eventual-champion Denver over Bemidji (Minn.) State.
In the East, Renssalear Institute of Technology, a team that does not offer scholarships punched its ticket to the Frozen Four with wins over top-ranked Denver and UNH in Albany. In 2007, UMass traveled to Rochester and knocked off Clarkson, 1-0, setting up a Hockey East showdown with Maine in the regional finals.
Since 2003, a team from the Northeast region has reached the finals every year, except 2004, including four eventual champions. There has never been a year in the 16-team format that a team from either the East or Northeast region has not been in the championship game. In 2005, a team from both the East (North Dakota) and Northeast (Denver) brackets advanced to the championship game.
A college hockey regional would be a chance for Springfield to gain some economic stimulation, national attention and a terrific week of sports action. Where is the downside? From where I sit, there isn’t one.
The Basketball Hall of Fame may reside in Springfield, but the hockey roots run deep, too. It’s time Springfield started pushing for a shot at this tournament. If you host it, hockey fans will come.

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Maza’s Wednesday Musings: Breaking down Hockey East at the break

There’s just one game remaining – Vermont vs. St. Lawrence – before the mid-season break for Hockey East teams and amidst all the rankings and standings and statistics is one question: Who is the best?

Well, here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

1. University of New Hampshire
Sure, people will accuse me of being biased and maybe I am a bit, but UNH has the resume to back up this claim. With no big-name stars, just a ton of depth, UNH has lost all of two games this season and nine games came between their first and second losses. Since the second loss, the Wildcats have gone on a five-game unbeaten streak, including a 4-3 overtime win over then eighth-ranked Maine on the road. Against ranked opponents, the ‘Cats are 6-2-1.

2. Boston College
The Eagles got off to a rocky start, thanks to some inconsistent play, but certainly have righted the ship and seem primed for a second-half run after brutalizing Boston University in a two-game set. The Eagles have sweeps this season over some pretty good teams, including BU, Denver and Maine. For some reason though, Merrimack has their number (1-2-0) and a poorly played game against Vermont in a two game road trip earlier this year has prevented the Eagles from getting any true momentum. But when you have the top scoring team in the conference and a defense that gives up fewer goals than any other team, more good things are going to happen than bad. Cam Atkinson is the best forward in college hockey you’ve never heard of and should be a major contender for the Hobey Hat Trick this year.

3. Boston University
Few ranked teams can be looking forward to the break as much as BU. The Terriers were absolutely embarrassed by Boston College at their own rink in a 9-5 game that really wasn’t nearly that close, then dropped a 5-2 decision the next day to the Eagles. After beating Northeastern, they dropped a 4-1 decision to Renssalaer. BU certainly has talent. At one point this season, BU had the longest unbeaten streak in the country, but now they need to regroup and get back to what was working for them during that streak.

4. Merrimack
Last year’s little team that could is making a case that it can run with the big boys now. Having been in the USCHO rankings for nearly a month now, Merrimack is showing that solid goaltending is the key to success. Joe Cannata, who seems like he’s been there forever, has developed into a top-flight goaltender, ranking second in the conference in goals allowed average and save percentage. They’ve also been a thorn in Boston College’s side and have proven they can play with the likes of BU and UNH. In six games against those teams, Merrimack is 2-2-2 and has an 11-11 goals for-goals against ratio. Doesn’t get much more even than that.

5. Maine
Maine’s 4-3 overtime loss to UNH was a heartbreaker for them, but the Black Bears controlled the play for all of the second period and most of the third until the Wildcats brought on the extra attacker. Maine has proven it can beat the also-rans of Hockey East, but has had its struggles against ranked Hockey East opponents, going a combined 0-3-1 against BC, UNH and BU.  That said, they did make a fool out of North Dakota with an impressive sweep earlier this year. Still, Maine has to win some tough games if they want home ice in the Hockey East tournament.

6. Providence
Providence is making quite the turnaround this season and it’s good to see them being competitive at least. Their defense still needs shoring up before they can be considered a true threat to any of the top teams in the conference. Only UMass-Lowell has given up more goals this season.

7. Northeastern
The Huskies have been in a lot of close games this year, but that doesn’t mean much if you can’t win them. Northeastern has been in only one game this season in which the margin of victory was more than two goals, but they hold an ugly 3-9-4 record, including an 0-1-4 mark in overtime games.

8. UMass
After struggling mightily to get its first win of the season, UMass has been a fairly competitive team. With its youth, it’s obviously going through growing pains, but going 3-1-1 in its last five games going into the break is a good sign.

9. Vermont
With a 2-8-4 record, UVM has very little to hang its hat on. They did beat Dartmouth and Boston College for its two wins this season, but they went 0-4-1 in the five games between the two victories.

10. UMass-Lowell
What is there to say? This team is simply awful. Their goaltender couldn’t stop a beach ball and they have such an inept offense that they can’t even come close to making up the difference. Wasn’t this team in the middle of a resurgence just a year ago?

Maza’s Monday Mailbag: What happens to Auburn?

A lot has gone on the past week in the world of sports, but the controversies always create the biggest buzz.

Springfield, MA wants to know: Will Auburn lose their shot at the national championship because of Cam Newton?
I really don’t think so. I’m reserving judgment because this is simply a case of he said, he said at this point. But whether these allegations prove accurate or not, the fact of the matter is the NCAA is going to have to do its due diligence and, in all likelihood, any decision of his guilt or innocence will come long after this season is over. It’s unfortunate that this question will hover over everything, but it’s the most likely scenario. It would be a tragic thing if a team ends up being denied a chance at the championship because Auburn stands in its way, only to find out later that the Tigers’ wins are vacated because the allegations prove to be sound. Then again, it would be just as tragic if the NCAA makes a snap decision and denies Auburn their shot if Newton did no wrong.

Holyoke, MA asks: With David Krejci out, do you think Tyler Seguin gets his chance to shine?
No. I do think that Krejci is the most talented centerman on the Bruins and I still think that’s true. And I do think it hurts them even more because Marc Savard is still on IR. It is a scary notion having Blake Wheeler as your second-line center, but I think it’s the right thing to do. Seguin is still a developing player and the third line for most shifts is the best place for him to learn to play the game at the speed and level of physicality it’s played in the NHL. He was benched in the game against the Blues on Saturday night, so moving him up to a line that requires more minutes when he’s playing a position he hasn’t proven to have the most aptitude at just yet just doesn’t make sense.

Framingham, MA says: Trading Randy Moss was a huge mistake. This team couldn’t do anything against the Browns so how can we expect them to do anything against a good team?
You can expect them to do good things because a man named Tom Brady is quarterbacking the team. I’ll not defend him for his play on Sunday because that was just awful. But then again, other than Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead, you would be hard pressed to find a defensive player that had a good game. What you should be worried about more than the offense, which we all knew would be worse without Moss, is the fact that the defense got totally run over. Peyton Hillis has been a pretty good back this year (He also had 144 yards against Baltimore in Week 3) and largely overlooked because of who he plays for. He’s a hard runner who looks to blow up defenders at the line. But what is concerning is the fact that the Patriots’ defensive line was getting blown off the ball and no one was contacting Hillis until he was headed for the secondary. Bad news for an already mediocre Patriots defense.

Concord, NH asks: Is Boston College really overrated this season or is UNH that good?
Referring to the UNH victory on Friday night, I’m sure, your question is very prematurely asked. Boston College has lost three games this season, two of them by one goal and two of them on the road. You are not going to play in Hockey East and be undefeated for long. As for the UNH/BC game, I did not have the opportunity to see it and only have the benefit of a stat sheet. However, from the looks of things, it appeared to be a pretty even, clean game. BC outshot UNH, 32-30. Only one penalty (UNH) between the two sides. UNH just got one more by the keeper. It’s a long season, but I will say this for UNH, They have one loss over its first seven games and are on a six-game unbeaten streak. In those seven games, the Wildcats have played two games a Miami (then No. 3), one against Michigan (then No. 3), one at Northeastern, one at Cornell (then No. 14), one at Boston College (then No. 4) and one at UMass-Lowell. That’s as tough a streak of games as any team will play at any point this season. To come out of that 4-1-2 says a lot about the Wildcats.

Albany, NY ponders: Is is possible the Yankees will land both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford?
The answer to that one is a resounding yes. The Yankees are one of the few teams that have the need and the payroll flexibility to do something like that. Cliff Lee is a no-brainer in terms of filling needs for the Yankees, who were middle-of-the-road at best as a pitching staff. Besides C.C. Sabathia, no starter had an ERA even close to being under 4.00. Crawford would be an upgrade to the outfield, but he’s not quite as essential. That said, Curtis Granderson’s first season in New York was as underwhelming as his last in Detroit, so picking up Crawford, moving Brett Gardner to center and planting Granderson on the bench would make sense if the Yankees were willing to look past the fact that they’re paying him $8.25 million next season. Surely they won’t be able to trade him, seeing as he’s getting that healthy paycheck this year, $10 million next year.

Don’t forget to submit your questions for next week’s Maza’s Monday Mailbag to mazasmusings@gmail.com.

Also, don’t forget to follow along on Twitter @Mazasmusings and ‘Like’ Chris Maza’s facebook page.

Last year’s Hockey East regular season and tournament teams clash Friday

UNH’s tough early-season schedule continues this Friday night with a big game against defending Hockey East and National Tournament champion Boston College.

UNH got off to a terrible start last year against a tough non-conference schedule, but got hot before Christmas in the heart of the Hockey East schedule, then, with a come-from-behind 3-3 tie in the second to last game of the season, the Wildcats clinched the regular-season crown.

This season, UNH has gotten off to a better start against an arguably tougher slate of games in the early-going. First, the Wildcats split two games at then No.3 Miami then tied another team ranked No. 3 at the time in Michigan at home. They followed that up with a 2-2 tie at Northeastern, then blew out then No. 14 Cornell at its barn, 7-4.

2-1-2 is actually an identical record through five games as the Wildcats had last season, but the results against marquis opponents have been much better this year.

Boston College playing UNH at the Conte Forum

In Boston College, however, the Wildcats face maybe their most formidable opponent yet. The Eagles return almost their entire roster from their championship-winning team. While the Whitney brothers, Joe and Steve, get most of the attention, has been one of the best in the nation with nine points (six goals, three assists, plus-5 plus-minus rating) and quietly will put together a convincing Hobey Baker resume.

Between the pipes, the Eagles have maybe the best goaltending tandem in the nation in John Muse and Parker Milner. Combined, the two have a 1.71 goals against average (GAA) and a .940 save percentage.

The Eagles will need that on Friday when they face a UNH squad that is second in the conference and eighth in the nation in offense. Unlike last year where Bobby Butler was the clear goal scorer on the team, this year’s Wildcats feature balance attack that has served well a UNH squad that has been around the block a few time, too.

Junior Stevie Moses leads the team with four goals, followed by senior captain Mike Sislo and fellow senior  Paul Thompson with three apiece. Senior Phil DeSimone and junior Mike Borisnok are tied for the UNH lead in points with six apiece (two goals, four assists).

The X factor is junior goaltender Matt DiGirolamo, a small, quick butterfly-style goaltender who follows in the footsteps of larger stand-up style keepers, such as Kevin Regan and Brian Foster. DiGirolamo is still trying to find his way after playing just under 93 minutes last season. So far the results have been mixed.

One other thing to look out for is the power play. While not outstanding, the UNH power play is second in the conference at just a shade above 19 percent and no team in Hockey East is spending more time in the penalty box this season than Boston College, who is averaging 18.4 minutes in the box per game. Of course, it needs to be noted that the Eagles are killing over 90 percent of those penalties.

BC has lost two of its last four, but they are undefeated in their own building and dating back to 2005, UNH has only beaten the Eagles at the Conte Forum three times (3-4-3). In a game that could prove crucial down the stretch, it could go either way when the puck drops.

Maza’s Monday Mailbag: Why is Notre Dame on my TV?

Big games shook up the BCS and college hockey this week, prompting questions from the readers, but one annoyed frequenter of the site first has a serious question he wants answered.

West Springfield, MA rages: Why the (expletive) do I have to watch Notre Dame on Saturday? We have basic cable, so I only get the network channels and I know to avoid NBC on Saturdays, but then they’re on CBS this week, playing a team that nobody cares about. Why does a team that hasn’t won ANYTHING as long as I’ve been alive keep getting so much play?
Well, my friend, you’re not going to like my answer, but here it is. I’m going to throw out a number: 75,614. That’s the number of people that packed the Meadowlands to see this game. Notre Dame still matters to a lot of people in this country. There are very few 4-3 teams that could pack that stadium. Notre Dame is one of them. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. And if you don’t care about Navy, then you don’t care that much about football. Over the past decade, Navy has been one of the most consistently underrated football teams in the country. They have been to seven-consecutive bowl games, have won three of them and two of the games they lost were by less than a field goal. While not quite as rich as the Army-Navy game, the game that was played Saturday was one of the oldest rivalries in college sports. As for why it was on CBS, the network has a contract with Navy and broadcasts Navy’s home games against Notre Dame, which always fall on even-numbered years.

Fairfield, CT wonders: When will Oregon get some respect from the computers? First Oklahoma is way ahead of them in the BCS rankings at number one, then Auburn takes the top spot away from them. What’s up with this? Everyone else can see that they’re the best team in football.
Right now Oregon is in line to be in the national title game, so what does it matter if they’re No. 1 or No. 2? That said, it probably has a lot to do with their schedule and perhaps for good reason. Outside of Stanford, it’s been pretty weak, whereas Auburn has now beaten three ranked teams in its last five games.  Oregon has been laying a whooping on teams, as they should. So has Boise State and people are clamoring that that should mean something. But remember, it was the coaches that rallied to get margin of victory removed from the formula. There’s still a lot of football to be played and a win over USC would be very valuable to Oregon. It’s also very possible that all of this conversation will be moot because Aurburn plays Alabama, maybe the best one-loss team in the nation, in the final game of their regular-season schedule. We shall see.

Boston, MA wants to know: Sure, BC (hockey) lost to Notre Dame (Sunday) night, but is that really going to be enough to drop them out of the No. 1 spot?
It probably will, but I don’t think they’ll be out of it for long. That said, for right now, I think you’d have to say Miami has a right to it. Miami is not undefeated, though the argument can be made that they have played a tougher schedule. Miami split a series with UNH, a top-10 team, beat and tied another ranked team in St. Cloud State and just brutalized Northern Michigan this weekend. So there’s at least an argument to be made.  Boston College hasn’t exactly been playing slouches. They won a conference game in the first game of the season and took two from Denver before losing a one-goal decision to Notre Dame. It also should be noted that they haven’t played a home game yet. So arguments could be made in either direction, but I think the quality of Miami’s opponents on their way to a similar record to BC puts them just a tad above them.

Springfield, Ma says: I think today’s game showed just how much the Patriots need a guy like Randy Moss. What do you think?
I think every team would love to have a guy like Randy Moss. And yes, Randy Moss may have helped. I don’t think there are many rational thinkers out there who think this team is better without him. However, give San Diego their props. The Chargers came into the game as the top statistical pass defense in football and they left the game that way. Sure, they haven’t played a team with a good quarterback AND dynamic receiver and that could have made a difference, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t have. It’s time to get over Randy Moss, folks. He’s gone.

Can anyone in Hockey East stop Boston College?

Can Hockey East make it four in a row? With Boston College at the top, it’s very possible.

As the college hockey season gets rolling today, the main question on the minds of anyone who follows Hockey East is whether or not Boston College can continue one of the most dominant stretches in college hockey history. Since 1998, they have made the tournament eleven times (98, 99, 00, 01, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 10), been to the championship game six times (98, 00, 01, 06, 07, 08, 10) and won the whole thing twice (08, 10). Not a bad stretch.

Boston College playing New Hampshire at the Conte Forum

What’s more, you would be hard pressed to find a team that won a national championship that returns as many players as Boston College does this year. I’m not going to lay out a bunch of stats and returning players for you. Suffice it to say that just about every impact player is returning to that team. The Immensely talented Whitney brothers and the quiet, yet very effective Cam Atkinson figure to be the leaders of a team that is deep throughout.

It’s saying something when Boston University coach says it’s “obvious” that BC is the favorite in the league. And when Northeastern coach Greg Cronin predicts the cross-town rivals could win 40 games and calls the Eagles the “thoroughbred” of the conference, that speaks volumes.

To put Cronin’s words in proper perspective, Maine won 42 games in 1993, setting an NCAA record. They went on to beat defending-champion Lake Superior, 5-4.

Maine has been a shadow of itself for the better part of this decade, but appear to be back on track behind the leadership of Gustav Nyquist, a Hobey Baker finalist who racked up 61 points in 39 games. After a rocky start, the Black Bears rebounded and made it all the way to the Hockey East championship game. But Maine needed to win the game in order to have enough of a resume to make the national tournament and failed to do so. Still, the 19-17-3 record indicated that things are on the upswing for Miane.

If there’s one question surrounding Maine, it’s goaltending. However, Maine only graduated one member of its blue line, which should make the job easier.

Can defending Hockey East regular season champion UNH upend Boston College?

New Hampshire is the other team that probably has the most hope of unseating the Eagles. Last year’s regular-season Hockey East champions have the second-longest active streak of tournament appearances with nine and could quite possibly have 10 after this season. As is the case with Maine, UNH is very green in goal. All-American Brian Foster played in 38 games last year, while this year’s starter, Matt DiGiolamo saw just under 93 minutes all season. Still, he’s getting rave reviews from coach Dick Umile, who noted while smaller than previous standouts Foster and former Hockey East Player of the Year Kevin Regan – both were 6-foot-2 – he is remarkably quick and athletic. The Wildcats also return five of their six defensemen, including All-American Blake Kessel.

UNH also is without its Hobey finalist from last year. Bobby Butler scored 29 goals and assisted 24 more for the Wildcats last season, but UNH is never short on scorers. Paul Thompson (19 goals), Mike Sislo (14 goals), Phil DiSimone (10) and Kessel (10) all return and who knows who else might pop up. Butler was not considered a top scorer for the team prior to last season.

BU always has to be in the Hockey East discussion, whether Boston College fans like it or not. After missing the postseason last year, Jack Parker’s crew does have a lot of work to do. BU has just one senior on the roster surrounded by 17 freshman and sophomores. Perhaps that’s what the Terriers need after the team looked very complacent the year after its championship run the year before.

Keiran Millan remains one of the best goaltenders in the conference and while he may never duplicate his outstanding freshman campaign, which included 28 wins and sub-2.00 goals against average, he will keep BU in most games.

Last year’s upstart Merrimack, which almost bumped BU out of the Hockey East Tournament, bears watching in for no other reason than Stephane De Costa, the Warriors’ phenom who scored 46 points in his rookie season.

Northeastern is looking to rebound and returns a lot of talent from a team that was left reeling after the departure of Hobey Baker finalist Brad Thiessen. Chris Rawlings eventually settled into the position and the team finished in the middle of the road in terms of team defense.

But the lack of a truly premier goaltender exposed some real offensive deficiencies for the Huskies, who were ninth in the league overall in scoring. Northeastern was just four points away from third place in Hockey East last year, but there was a severe logjam in the middle of the pack and despite being that close to home ice, Northeastern didn’t go to the postseason at all, so it’s hard to read just how good this team might be or might not be.

Overall, Hockey East does have question marks throughout, with the exception of Boston College, and should once again be the most competitive conference in college hockey.

Projected standings:
1. Boston College*
2. New Hampshire*
3. Maine*
4. Boston University
5. Northeastern
6. Merrimack
7. Vermont
8. UMass-Lowell
9. UMass-Amherst
10. Providence
* indicates NCAA tournament

Maza’s Monday Mailbag (10/4): Does Boise State have a chance?

This week’s mailbag features quite a bit of college talk, both football and hockey.

Manchester, CT wants to know: Does Boise State have a chance at playing for the BCS National Championship?

In a word, no. And it’s not at all their fault. At the beginning of the season, Boise State had two ranked teams on their non-conference schedule and as of today, they have none. Virginia Tech still needs to convince a lot of people they are deserving after losing to James Madison and people may have soured on Oregon State for good. In terms of teams in front of them, Ohio State and Alabama haven’t done anything to take themselves out of the conversation. On top of that, Oregon has justified their argument to be considered for the national title by beating a very good top-10 Stanford team and dominating Tennessee at home. Oregon plays in a very tough conference this year and still has contests remaining No. 18 USC and No. 14 Arizona. If both teams win out, the strength of schedule favors and would probably put the Ducks at least in the conversation at the end of the year and leave Boise on the outside looking in again.

Dover, NH says: Whats your take on Dayne Crist, now that you’ve seen him in person? Can he take the Irish back to prominence/relevance?

Before we get into the heart of this question, we also have to remember that in his first year, Kelly is trying to run a spread offense without spread offense personnel. So the fact that the team isn’t scoring 45 points a game should not be a surprise to anyone. That said, I did see some things I liked from Crist. Even more than the way he was able to lead the Notre Dame offense on an opening scoring drive that left both the Boston College defense and the crowd stunned, I was more impressed with his third drive, which gave the Irish a 14-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the game. He was very efficient on that series. I think he threw only one incomplete pass, which was still a good ball to the back of the end zone that Michael Floyd just couldn’t get his hands on. Crist is ranked 19th nationally in yards per game, but just 62nd in yards per attempt (7.0). Part of that, I believe, has to do with the fact that the Irish’s running game, has no teeth. While they’ve rushed for over 1oo yards in three of their first five games, there have been very few impact runs as Armando Allen continues to be a disappointment for the Irish. With the lack of a dangerous running attack, the Irish have seen teams be able to drop seven or eight men in the box against them, leaving Crist to rely on the short pass to move the ball down the field. Overall, Crist is still learning how to be a spread quarterback. He’s working on his mobility and did score on a seven-yard designed keeper, but ultimately, it’s not what he’s built for. I’d also like to see him improve on his accuracy. He’s only completing somewhere in the vicinity of 55 percent of his passes, although, in fairness to him, I think his receivers dropped five or six catchable balls on Saturday.

Billerica, MA asks: The (Boston College) Eagles were ranked first in Hockey East coaches poll and in the national preseason poll. Will they repeat as national champions and keep being the most dominant team in college hockey?

Personally, I think Hockey East is the deepest, most talented conference in college hockey and whatever teams end up making the national tournament have a more than decent shot at the national championship. But of all those teams, Boston College returns the most talent from a squad that absolutely scorched one of the fastest teams in the nation last year in Wisconsin. I mean, they made Wisconsin look like an over-40 pick up team. John Muse and Parker Milner make a terrific tandem in goal and offensively, the Eagles have the talent to beat anybody. That said, it is so hard to repeat in college hockey, you can’t say with any certainty right now that they will win it all. Since 1970, only two schools have EVER repeated – Boston University in 1971 and 1972 and Denver in 2004 and 2005. Especially with how good North Dakota looks to be this year, not to mention Miami and Michigan, it would be tough. But at this point, I would have to say the pollsters are right that Boston College is the favorite.

Concord, NH says: Who has more catches Monday night against the Dolphins? Hernandez, Welker, or Marshall? And aside from the play of the crappy cb’s in this game, who is the key to victory?

I can respond to both questions with one answer. If I were Brady, I would be looking for Hernandez and Gronkowski all day long. Miami has proven weak against tight ends this season. Visanthe Shiancoe racked up 86 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per catch in Week 2, while Dustin Keller caught two touchdowns and had 98 yards (16.3 yards per catch) in Week 3. If there’s one place the Miami defense looks vulnerable, it’s up the seam.

Syracuse, NY thinks: The Eagles were stupid to give up Donovan McNabb and the Chargers were stupid to let LT go. Can you argue with that?

From day one I did not understand what the Eagles were hoping to accomplish by trading McNabb at all, let alone trading him to a division rival. To this day, I still can’t come up with a good reason, so, in that case, I can’t see how I can disagree. The Tomlinson situation was a little different. The guy had not been overly productive in a couple of years and was showing a lot of the signs of wear and tear that a lot of feature backs in the league suffer from. Let’s not forget that it’s still Week 4. If LT can maintain this kind of productivity through, say, Week 10, then I’ll be a believer.

Springfield, MA ponders: Who is the most overrated team in college football?

There are so many different ways to look at this question, so I’m going to get murdered by someone no matter how I choose. Most overrated at this point would have to be Nebraska. They have to prove something to me before I will consider them truly elite and beating up on Western Kentucky, Idaho, Washington and South Dakota State (and only beating SDS by 14 points) doesn’t do that for me.

That’s it for this week’s mailbag. Remember to submit your questions for next week’s mailbag to mazasmusings@gmail.com.

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