The 2022 season did not go how either Northern Illinois or Boston College had envisioned, but now one of them has the chance to get their 2023 started off on the right note. Boston College finished last season with a 3-9 record, and to make matters worse, they lost their starting quarterback to the transfer portal, so Saturday brings the opportunity for a fresh start both on the season and the QB position.
Northern Illinois went into last season as the reigning champions in the MAC conference, but they were unsuccessful in defending their title. In fact, due to injuries, the Huskies would fail to reach a bowl game in 2022 after finishing with a 3-9 record. Rocky Lombardi was the quarterback who helped NIU win the conference in 2021, but last season, he could only play four games after dealing with an injury.
The good news for the Huskies offense is Lombardi will be back under center on Saturday for his seventh year of college football, including redshirts. With 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his NIU career, Lombardi will lead a run-heavy offense that was 29th in average rushing yards per game last season (190.7). Getting the same amount of production out of the run game could be more of a challenge for the Huskies since their leading rusher from last year transferred.
Missing their quarterback was a big part of the losing equation last year, but a lackluster defense was also a big part. The Huskies finished 110th in points allowed and 71st in yards allowed per game and also lost their second-leading tackler to the portal. As they look to regain their 2021 form, the Huskies will take on a Boston College offense that finished 123rd in points per game and 111th in EPA per play last season.
Taking over the offense this year will be Emmett Morehead, who played in ten games last season and threw for ten touchdowns and six interceptions. Morehead will be a massive part of this offense, as the Eagles were 14th in pass play percentage, but after finishing with an average of 60.5 rushing yards per game, the Eagles will need a more consistent run game this season if they want to improve from 2022.
The point total for this game is currently set at 50.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. As we’ve talked about, neither team was good in 2022 on either side of the ball, and while they should improve this season, I still don’t see this game being a shootout offensively. Northern Illinois wants to slow the game down with their rushing attack, and last season, they finished inside the top 50 in time of possession.
Boston College’s defense may have struggled with this type of running attack last season, but after getting a lot of guys back from injury and bringing in George Rooks out of the portal to bolster the defensive line, I expect to see improvement in that area. Offensively, the Eagles want to sling it around the yard, and while they should be able to out-physical the NIU defensive backs, Morehead will need to find a new go-to receiver since Zay Flowers was drafted.
A passing offense is great, but it can also lead to fast scoring drives or fast drives in general that will hand the ball right back to the run-heavy, clock-controlling Huskies. The one area on defense that the Huskies could challenge the Eagles is up front, as they finished 20th in sack percentage last season, which means Morehead could be pressured into some bad decisions.