Game Preview


Boston College
Ryan Field
Saturday, September 15, 2012.  2:30 pm CDT
ESPN 1000 Radio

Game Preview: Boston College
by Jonathan Hodges

The Northwestern Wildcats (2-0, 0-0) face their third straight non-conference opponent from a BCS league in the second game of their four game homestand as the Boston College Eagles (1-1) come to town. The 'Cats have a chance to make a statement while the rest of the conference seemingly falters and can continue to put itself in a good position with three win-able games on the horizon. But Fitz is putting the pedal to the metal in order to ensure the Wildcats don't slack off and have a letdown game, which has been a problem in the past.

Opening Line: Northwestern by 4.5. O/U 52.5.

Who Should Win: Northwestern. The Wildcats have shown flashes of greatness on offense (particularly through the middle quarters at Syracuse and in the final period versus Vanderbilt), defense (throughout the final three quarters of the Vandy game), and special teams (Venric Mark, plus Jeff Budzien nailing his three FG attempts last week). BC, meanwhile, got beat by a down Miami (FL) team in a shootout (who were subsequently demolished by Kansas State 52-13), and has a win thanks to facing FCS Maine last week (a game in which they were down 3-0 for much of the first half).

Upset Factor: Boston College can throw the ball around thanks to junior QB Chase Rettig who is averaging 330 passing yards per game, good for eighth nationally, and all 'Cats fans know one glaring weakness of this team is the defensive backfield. They will certainly be challenged, and it doesn't help that BC is giving up only one sack per game this season, putting them near the top nationally. If NU slips in coverage and/or is not able to get to the QB, this can turn into a shootout and, if it does, anything can happen.

NU Offense vs. BC Defense: The Eagles' defense looked suspect in week one against Miami, giving up 41 points at home, and one should look for NU to move the ball much better than they did versus Vanderbilt last week. Hopefully Fitz and OC Mick McCall find the right combination/rotation of QBs Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to keep the ball rolling. Expect Mark to play a significant role on the ground (BC is giving up 133.5 yards per game rushing) and for McCall to dial up a good mix of plays, which should allow NU to put points on the board.

NU Defense vs. BC Offense: Can the DL repeat its great performance from a week ago? That might determine the outcome of this game as BC will certainly look to throw early and often. Rettig will be looking for WR Alex Amidon who already has 248 receiving yards, and they'll try to mix in runs from Andrew Williams, who broke a long run on NU's first play from scrimmage last season, and Tahj Kimble. The defense will have to stay honest and look out for play action out of more of a pro set, which NU hasn't seen a whole lot of so far. Hopefully CB Nick VanHoose will be healthy enough to go this week after coming out of last week's game with a back injury as the secondary will need all the help it can get.

Special Teams: NU did a nice job in all aspects of special teams last week, limiting all returns, playing pretty well in the punting game, and Budzien hitting all of his kicks to the tune of 11 points on the night. Hopefully BC will decide to kick to Mark once or twice and we'll see what happens there. Again, I'll give the edge to NU here.

Notes: Northwestern has a chance to notch three non-conference wins over BCS conference opponents for the first time since 1962 (in which they had wins over South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Miami (FL)). NU is also inching up the polls with 5 points in the AP poll and 9 in the Coaches' poll. NU is 8th nationally and first in the Big Ten with a +2.0 turnovers per game margin. Mark continues to perform well in all aspects of the game and is second nationally in all-purpose yards at 219.5 per game. NU is now 6-1 in regular season games vs. BCS conference opponents under Fitz.

Prediction: Northwestern 35 - Boston College 31
I don't expect NU's defensive stand to continue against a BC team that has shown it can air it out. But, the Wildcats should be able to move the ball with relative ease and has the ability to put points on the board in bunches, so expect a higher scoring game and an NU victory as Fitz keeps his team focused through yet another non-conference challenge for the 'Cats.

Go 'Cats!!!

e-mail: j-hodges@alumni.northwestern.edu

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