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2023 Boston College Football Opponent Preview: Northern Illinois

Boston College v Northern Illinois Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We are just over 50 days until the BC football season kicks off and the echoes are a-ringing, the alma mater is a-hailing, and destiny is a-calling. Get excited folks.

These two programs have squared off twice in recent memory, opening the 2017 season at Huskie Stadium with a 23-20 Eagles win. The 2015 edition was another three-point win for BC early in the year (though that would be the last win in a forgettable season).

When: Saturday, September 2nd at 12pm ET

Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA

Northern Illinois Overview

On the heels of a MAC championship in ‘21, the 2022 season was not kind to the Huskies. Injuries and close losses by and large resulted in three wins overall, second worst in the conference.

It will now be Coach Thomas Hammock’s fifth season in charge at his alma mater and he has injected his running back history into his team’s veins. There’s a little bit of shuffling in the backfield with two of their top three leading rushers transferring, but Antario Brown remains and is joined by the likes of Iowa transfer Gavin Williams. The real strength of this team, though, comes from its veteran-laden offensive line. They allowed the fewest sacks in the conference and were part of the MAC’s second best rushing team. The Eagles are going to have to show some physicality immediately to match this style of play.

Quarterback Rocky Lombardi only made it through four games before going down with injury. He has 30 games worth of experience after spending his first three seasons at Michigan State, and winning said MAC championship in his first season in DeKalb. He had nine rushing touchdowns in that 2021 season to go with nearly 500 yards, and has a strong arm to complete the arsenal.

Another major injury last season was to leading receiver Trayvon Rudolph. Posting nearly 900 yards and averaging 15 a catch in 2021, Rudolph was out the entirety of last year, but will look to reconnect with his quarterback.

Defensively, NIU has a solid front line with contributors all around, two of whom are all-conference tackles. One step back though and the team’s top two linebackers are out, one to Kentucky. Now they have some capable hands to step up, though they do seem to lack a bit of size. Most of the secondary stays put, with safety CJ Brown returning as the team’s leading tackler. Now the pass defense was quite susceptible last season, but they’ll expect to see improvement with the newfound experience and probably some more balance thanks to a stronger offense.

Preseason Prediction

Boston College sits at 10.5 point favorite with the over/under at 52, but most are expecting a turn around for this Northern Illinois team. Though still-too-early, I’ll say BC comes away with a somewhat stressful, but somehow not too stressful four point victory: 27-23. It is week one after all and this team still has a core that took home a conference title.