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Boston College vs Northern Illinois: Preview & Final Prediction

Boston College vs Northern Illinois: 2023 Season Home Opener - Preview & Final Prediction

Boston College vs. Northern Illinois game poster
Boston College vs. Northern Illinois (Photo: BC Athletics)

Established in 1893, Boston College Football celebrates its 125th season. The BC Football program twice overcame being disbanded, having missed the 1900 season and five seasons from 1903-1907. Boston College (0-0) will be hosting Northern Illinois (0-0) this Saturday to kickoff the 2023 college football season. Kickoff will be at Noon ET from Alumni Stadium (Chestnut Hill, MA) and will be nationally televised on the ACC Network (ACCN).

BC leads the all-time series that started in 1971, 3-0, with a pair of wins at home. The last time these two teams played was also a season opener; a 23-20 win for the Eagles on the road in 2017. The Eagles and the Huskies are both anxious to rebound from disappointing 2022 seasons. Northern Illinois starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi led the Huskies to the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship two years ago but only played four games last season because of a knee injury. Lombardi is looking to return to his 2021 form, and if he does this game could be a lot more competitive than expected.

Boston College also expects to improve from last year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. BC returns 74% of its overall production from a year ago and 79% of its offensive production, which ranks 13th and 14th in the nation. Eight Eagles combine for 15 appearances on preseason watch lists, led by graduate transfer wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe. He is hoping to replace some of the production BC will be missing from the absence of Zay Flowers who is entering his first year in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. O'Keefe is a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, Hornung Award, and the Senior Bowl.

Throwing to him will be starting quarterback Emmett Morehead, who is looking to take the next step in his progression. Morehead started the last four games of 2022 with 1,029 passing yards and nine touchdowns as the starter. He was one of three freshmen (true or redshirt) quarterbacks in the nation with multiple games of 325+ passing yards and 3+ touchdowns.

However, the most exciting aspect of the Eagles offense and with the most room for improvement is the offensive line, which combined to miss 33 games in 2022; good for 55% of the potential starts last year.

"At the start of the 2022 season, BC had just four career starts among its active offensive linemen. A year later, the Eagles offensive front boasts 135 starts with the return of guard Christian Mahogany and the insertion of transfers Kyle Hergel (Texas State) and Logan Taylor (Virginia)."

Boston College's O-line is expected to have significant improvement from last year. This leap should greatly improve pass protection for Emmett Morehead, and run blocking for a ground game that last year was ranked dead last.

So Boston College Football Fans, things are looking up for the Eagles.

Current Line: BC -9.5 (O/U 50.5)

Chance Of Winning: 70.7%

According to ESPN Analytics BC has a 71% chance of winning this game. The spread for this game is 9.5 points in favor of Boston College, with the over/under at 50.5.

Does BC Cover The Spread?

Boston College wins and covers the spread. The score might remain close for the first quarter, but with the home-field advantage and the O-line improvement, we think that BC will win this game comfortably.

The over/under looks tricky - stay away from this bet. Having said that, we are leaning towards the over. With both teams needing to prove so much on offense after abysmal seasons there are way too many variables to confidently predict this total.

Final Score: 38-17 (BC WINS)

This should not be a close game. Getting an early lead in this game will be key for Boston College. It will allow them to develop their run game, stay balanced, and control the time of possession. We think the Eagles will alleviate the O-line concerns early with the ability to run the ball from the start, which will open up a good amount of play-action throws for Morehead to hit downfield. Expect Pat Garwo to set the tone early. Remember, Garwo became the 19th player at BC to surpass 1,000 yards in a season with 1,045 in 2021.

This will be the ultimate return game for Christian Mahogany and the entire offensive line which has historically been a strength at Boston College. It will also be a coming-out party for a young and talented defensive line, starting with Donovan Ezeiruaku, a Preseason All-ACC pick, who finished fourth in the league in sacks (8/5) and tackles for loss (14.5) in 2022. His sack total was the most by an Eagle since 2018. Another Eagle returning after he suffered a season-ending injury in week one of 2022 is Shitta Sillah (pronounced: She-tah Sill-ahh) to the defensive line. Sillah has nine career starts, including the opening game a year ago, nine TFLs, and 4.5 sacks.

We expect the takeaway to be how dominant both lines will look in this game. We also expect BC to win the turnover margin, something they have had difficulty doing so far under Coach Hafley.

Depth Chart:

Boston College Depth Chart
Boston College Depth Chart (Photo: BC Athletics)

How To Watch The Game:

Go to the game! There are still some tickets available here.

Saturday’s game will air nationally on ACC Network (ACCN) at Noon ET. Chris Cotter (play-by-play) and former BC linebacker Mark Herzlich (analyst) are in the booth with Ashley Stroehlein (reporter) on the sideline.

Coverage on the Boston College Sports Network begins 30 minutes prior to kickoff on WEEI 93.7 FM and 850 AM. Jon Meterparel (play-by-play) is joined on the call by former BC linebacker Pete Cronan in the booth and quarterback Scott Mutryn on the sideline.

We will be covering the game live from Alumni Stadium this Saturday!


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