College Football

Changing Face of the Atlantic MORE: Preseason all downhill from here

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Changing Face of the Atlantic MORE: Preseason all downhill from here

Five years ago last month, Kevin Garnett landed in Boston and changed the face of the Atlantic Division.

Or maybe changed the face is the wrong phrase. More accurately, Garnett simply took over. He invaded and pillaged the Atlantic like a White Walker after sundown.

That first season, the Celtics took the division by 25 games.

Of course, most of that had to do with the fact that Boston was a damn good team. Obviously. Now that the Cs have fallen slightly back into the pack, I think we have a much better appreciation for just how great that 2008 squad was. They won 66 games. They went 35-6 at home. They would have won in any division that year. But at the same time, their dominance was enhanced by a lack of competition.

Back in 2007, the rest of the Atlantic was a ghost town. The Knicks were stuck in the Isiah Years. The Nets were on their last lap with Jason Kidd. The Sixers were figuring out life after AI. The Raptors were OK, but never a threat. They were the best worst team in basketball. And all of a sudden, they were sharing a division with an NBA super power.

In Year 2, even with Garnett injured down the stretch, the Celtics won the Atlantic by 21 games. In Year 3, with KG hurting, Big Baby pouting and Rasheed Wallace stinking everything up, Boston fell back to Earth with 50 wins, but still won the division by 10. In Year 4, Perk trade and all, the Celtics won by 14. Last year, they started slowly, but went on a late run to claim the Atlantic by three. Three games.

From 25 to three, things have obviously changed.

Over the last five years, the Knicks have freed themselves from Isiah's crippling insanity. The Nets were purchased by a crazy Russian billionaire, determined to compete at all costs, and moved to Brooklyn. The 76ers drafted well, found the right coach and were bought by a young HarvardWharton-educated owner. The Raptors are down, but can only get better.

When KG arrived in Boston, the Atlantic was void of star power. You had Chris Bosh and little else in Toronto. A bunch of spare, awkward parts in New York. Young Andre Iguodala flailing in Philly. Kidd and Vince Carter past their primes in New Jersey. Today, you look around and its hard to believe the talent that surrounds the Celtics.

Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brooke Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner . . . and now, Andrew Bynum.

There are about 1,500 different storylines surrounding today's enormous Dwight Howard trade, and as far as I can tell there's only one positive for Boston: They got Howard out of the conference. I don't care where he went, or who else changed teams, one of the biggest and best defensive players in NBA history no longer stands between the Celtics and the NBA Finals. That's a good thing. But after that, it was a tough day for Boston. Emotionally (with Howard going to the Lakers) and in a pure basketball sense.

As A. Sherrod Blakely pointed out this afternoon, moving forward, Andrew Bynum's presence will concern the Celtics far more than Howard's absence. Obviously, Bynum's a bit of a wild card physically. If he isn't healthy, the conversation will change. But assuming he stays on the court, the transformation of the Atlantic Division is just about complete.

From the most boring and one-sided segment of the NBA world, to one of the most competitive divisions in the league.

In a way, we knew it would eventually happen. There was no way that an entire division could stay down for so long without a worthy challenger finally scraping its way to the surface. But all of a sudden, there are three of them.

Fortunately for Boston, Kevin Garnett's still here. Five years older, but still willing and able to defend his kingdom.

But for he and the Celtics, the days of feasting on the Atlantic have disappeared in the rear view.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Boston College beats UConn 39-16 in wind and rain at Fenway Park

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Boston College beats UConn 39-16 in wind and rain at Fenway Park

BOSTON - AJ Dillon rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns, breaking free on a 48-yard run and a 53-yard score on Saturday night to lead Boston College to a 39-16 victory over UConn on the wet and worn-out turf at Fenway Park.

Playing most of the game in a heavy rain, with groundskeepers patching the field most every timeout, the Eagles (6-5) qualified for a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons. UConn (3-8) showed little offense until two late touchdowns cut into a 36-point deficit.

One week after BC quarterback Anthony Brown sustained a season-ending knee injury, Darius Wade completed 7 of 15 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He was helped by Dillon's running, another 107 yards rushing from Jon Hilliman and two long interception returns, including a 65-yard pick-six by Taj-Amir Torres.

Hilliman scored on 38- and 3-yard runs for BC, and Lukas Denis picked off David Pindell at the goal line and ran it back 56 yards to set up Dillon's second score.

BC led 39-3 in the fourth before Kevin Mensah ran 70 yards for a touchdown. Pindell followed by hitting Hergy Mayala for 43 yards with 4:15 left to make it 39-16.

Pindell finished with a career-high 241 yards on 14-for-33 passing, with three interceptions.

Although the century-old ballpark is less than four miles from BC's Chestnut Hill campus, UConn was officially the home team. But the opportunity to use the Red Sox clubhouse didn't help the Huskies avoid falling to 0-12-2 all-time against BC.

A 21-point favorite, BC trailed 3-0 after one quarter before Wade rolled to his left toward the Red Sox dugout and evaded tacklers long enough to find Chris Garrison in the end zone, right in front of where home plate would usually be.

Dillon dragged four defenders into the end zone - with another standing by and watching - on his 53-yard score in the second quarter, then added a 20-yard TD run in the third to make it 33-3. It was his second career 200-yard game and the first 200-yard rusher against UConn since Ray Rice did it for Rutgers in 2005.

THE TAKEAWAY

Boston College: The Eagles are bowl-eligible for the fourth time in coach Steve Addazio's five seasons in Chestnut Hill. He's the first BC coach to go to five bowl games in his first five seasons.

UConn: The Huskies picked up a nice check - $1.25 million - and some players got the thrill of playing in Fenway Park.

OUT FOR THE SEASON

Boston College announced before the game that defensive back Kamrin Moore will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury he sustained last week against North Carolina State. Moore, a captain, had started 23 consecutive games before missing Saturday night's game against UConn.

Moore finished with 140 tackles, six for a loss, and two interceptions.

KICKING WOES

Boston College missed three extra points and had a field goal blocked.

UP NEXT

Boston College: Wraps up the regular season against Syracuse on Saturday.

UConn: Finishes its season against Cincinnati next Saturday.

UMass wins a game on the road, hands BYU its 9th loss, 16-10

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UMass wins a game on the road, hands BYU its 9th loss, 16-10

PROVO, Utah - Andrew Ford fired a 40-yard touchdown pass to Andy Isabella and Logan Laurent kicked three field goals to stake UMass to a 16-0 lead at BYU and the Minutemen held on to post a 16-10 victory Saturday - earning a fourth win for the first time as an FBS school.

UMass (4-7) started playing FBS football in 2012 and never won more than three games nor won a road game against a team outside of the Mid-American Conference.

The victory ended both streaks.

The loss gives BYU nine losses for the third time in school history, matching 1949 and 1955. The Cougars have one game remaining next week in Honolulu against Hawaii with the prospect of their first 10-loss season looming.

Rhett Almond got BYU on the board with a 40-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the third quarter and Joe Critchlow hit Matt Bushman with a 6-yard TD pass in the final minute.

Critchlow was 21 of 45 passing for 257 yards, but the Cougars managed just 42 net rushing yards.