Here’s what I know about Saturday’s football game between Rhode Island and Maine at Alfond Stadium: It will be a beautiful fall afternoon and one team is going to walk out of there with its first win of the season. That team should be the Black Bears, but you never know what’s going to happen once they kick things off. So here are five things I’ll be keeping an eye on:

1. The status of Black Bear middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga. At the beginning of the week, there was optimism that the valuable junior would be able to return from a bruised leg bone suffered three weeks ago. But he was limited in practice as the week wore on and now it’s questionable whether he’ll play. Maine has a very good defense, but it’s certainly better when Mulumba Tshimanga is on the field to minimize mistakes. The Rams will try to establish the run with talented sophomore tailback Harold Cooper. Cooper, who was heavily recruited by Maine, hurt the Black Bears with 74 yards on 10 carries a year ago. Mulumba Tshimanga is Maine’s best tackler when healthy. They could use him Saturday, for sure. As for other injuries, I believe tight end Jeremy Salmon and safety Darrius Hart will be back.

2. The continuing development of Maine tailback Nigel Beckford. He gained 107 yards in this matchup a year ago as Maine ran for 211 overall. The sophomore looked good again in his season debut last Saturday at Tulane, picking up 58 yards on 13 carries before the Black Bears fell so far behind that they essentially abandoned the run. Another 100-yard performance, maybe even including a touchdown or two, would go a long way to ease the problems plaguing the Black Bear offense. In addition to Beckford, I think wide receiver Micah Wright has the potential for an explosive game in this one. I wrote more about him in my game preview story for tomorrow’s Press Herald.

3. How big will that crowd be? I’m told 5,000 tickets had already been issued as of Friday afternoon. The weather should coax another 2,000 people out of their homes, right? Military members are getting in free, which is a nice touch. The freshmen will be marching across the field for their first home game, always an interesting spectacle. There will be a new version of the mascot unveiled. It’s the only home game Maine has in the first six weeks of the season. On the surface, this game is nothing to get too excited about, but there’s enough other reasons to think we could be looking at a nearly full house (capacity is listed at 10,000). But how many will stick around for the second half? And will Maine give them a good reason to?

4. Will Dan Collins take every snap at quarterback? The junior is set to start. That much Coach Jack Cosgrove told me Tuesday, after a wicked-looking injury to his hand proved to be only a bruise. But Cosgrove, who pulled Collins for Drew Belcher after two fourth-quarter interceptions at Tulane, wouldn’t say that his starter will go the distance. I suspect that depends on how well Collins performs. And he needs to be better, no question. To that end, Cosgrove said the coaches were simplifying things this week for a number of players, so that they didn’t have to make so many decisions in the heat of battle. That includes the quarterbacks, I’m sure. Maybe simpler will be better. Maybe.

5. Will the Maine defense outscore its offense? Last year, Trevor Bates turned Maine’s fortunes around at Rhode Island with a 14-yard interception return. It was the game’s lone turnover. I sense the Black Bear defense has more than one turnover it them this time. Bates is due for another pick-six. Perhaps a couple of teammates will get in on the act as well.