Boston College has been unable to keep pace on the offensive side of the football in recent years, a trend the program hopes to reverse in 2017, beginning with a challenging road game at Northern Illinois on Friday night. The Eagles, who won a bowl game last year for the first time since 2007, have ranked as one of the best defensive teams in the country several times under head coach Steve Addazio, who expects a more balanced product this season.
“All phases are better. Every phase is better,” Addazio recently told reporters of his offense. “Now it’s about hammering out the consistency of it all.” Grad student Darius Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown are battling it out for the starting quarterback job, while senior Jon Hilliman leads a deep group in the backfield and former quarterback Jeff Smith has big-play potential at receiver. Addazio’s defense, which led the nation in yards allowed per game in 2015 and was eighth in that category last year, has a star in preseason All-American defensive end Harold Landry, who led the country in sacks (16.5) a year ago and will take aim at a Huskies squad that has all sorts of uncertainty on offense. Either junior Ryan Graham or sophomore Daniel Santacaterina will start under center for head coach Ron Carey, who was 23-5 in his first two years at the helm but is just 13-13 over the last two seasons.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Boston College -3
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (2016: 7-6): Injuries have limited Hilliman since he had 860 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, but he appears in great health and will be supported by Davon Jones and freshman standout A.J. Dillon. Even Smith will get into the act on the ground, but the junior is expected to give either Wade or Brown a target with electric talent. “He’s an every down receiver now,” Addazio said of Smith. “He’s fast in a fast conference. He runs away from people in our conference, which is probably the fastest conference in the country.”
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2016: 5-7): Graham has thrown for 1,371 yards and 14 TDs over the last two seasons while Santacaterina saw action in the last two games of 2016. The receiving corps will be looking for someone to step into the leading role after Kenny Golladay (87 catches, 1,156 yards) went to the NFL, and top rusher Joel Bouagnon (885 yards, eight TDs) also needs to be replaced for a team that is coming off its first losing season since 2008. Iowa State transfer Jauan Wesley figures to be a top target through the air and senior Jordan Huff - who averages nearly seven yards a carry in his career - will have every opportunity to fill Bouagnon’s shoes.
1. Hilliman ran for 119 yards and a TD as the Eagles squeaked by the Huskies 17-14 at home in the previous meeting in 2015.
2. Landry also led the ACC in forced fumbles (seven) and was second in tackles for loss (22) last year.
3. BC ranked 127th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense (292.8 yards per game) in 2016.
PREDICTION: Boston College 24, Northern Illinois 18