Being in the national spotlight is nothing new for Northern Illinois. The Huskies have been to seven straight bowl games including an Orange Bowl appearance following the 2012 season. They have won at least ten games five years in a row. From Jerry Kill to Dave Doeren to Rod Carey, the program has thrived.
Even with all of their success, last Saturday was very nearly the crowning moment. The Huskies were leading No. 1 Ohio State midway through the second quarter and were tied at halftime. Down 20-13, NIU had two opportunities late in the game to tie the score. But the Buckeyes held on and Northern Illinois had to be content with a noble effort.
The Huskies get another opportunity at a Power 5 team this week when they head to Boston College to face the Eagles. BC is coming off its own tough battle, losing to Florida State 14-0 and seeing quarterback Darius Wade break his ankle.
Northern Illinois at Boston College
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Boston College -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Boston College Quarterback Situation
Both Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie saw action against Florida State after Wade went down. Head coach Steve Addazio said that the two would compete in practice this week for the starting position and that both may play on Saturday. The freshman Smith is more equipped to operate the read option game while the redshirt freshman Flutie is a better passer and has mobility. Neither was very effective against FSU but BC didn’t move the ball well with Wade in the game either.
2. Protecting Drew Hare
The NIU quarterback put up big numbers the first two weeks with much of his production coming to wide receiver Kenny Golladay. But the Huskies have had some issues protecting Hare through the first three games. It’s understandable that Ohio State would pressure the Huskies quarterback, but UNLV sacked him three times in the season opener. Boston College is sixth in the nation with 11 sacks and they will be a formidable challenge for the Huskies offensive line.
3. Mental State of Both Teams
Northern Illinois and Boston College both have some mental hurdles that they have to clear this week. Northern Illinois is coming off that emotional loss and now they have to hit the road once again to play a major conference foe. Boston College also had a hard-fought loss to a highly ranked conference rival and they have to adjust to a new quarterback. The team that is able to regain their focus will have a decided advantage.
Boston College has no choice but to try and run the ball a lot this week. Their quarterbacks are very young and their receivers are not great. Whether it is by using Smith in the zone read or giving the ball to Jon Hilliman, BC will try to move the ball on the ground. Northern Illinois would love a balanced attack, but they will find it tough to run on an Eagles defense that was effective in limiting Dalvin Cook last Friday night. Hare will throw and hope that he gets protection. BC has a very good defense and an inept offense which means this should be a low scoring game. Northern Illinois played Ohio State tough, but they also struggled with UNLV in week one. Boston College will get by at home.
Prediction: Boston College 13, Northern Illinois 10
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.