Northwestern at Boston College: Opening line and the basics


The hurricane is over, the superconference apocalypse is nigh (thank you Texas A&M), and we are back to Boston College sports. Some of our other fall sports have already begun, but football is where we bring home the proverbial bacon, and it’s coming this weekend. I know it was hard for all of you, but we’ve finally weathered the offseason. I’m happy to say that this will be my third season covering BC football for STG, even though I’m going to have to watch the first three games on my DVR most likely.

The 2011 football season will begin with a non-cupcake home game against the Wildcats of Northwestern University. Now, for those outside the loop, it’s not in what we know as the northwest, but what was formerly known as the northwest — back when America pretty much only went as far as the Mississippi, that is. This Illinois university will travel to Boston College for a 12pm September 3rd kickoff in the season opener (on ESPNU).

The Eagles had opened earlier in August as seven-point favorites, but they now sit as three-point favorites. There are, as you might imagine, a number of factors involved that have been moving this line up and down. First is the unavailability of Montel Harris. We haven’t seen him since the Virginia game last season, and whether or not we see him later on in September, we know for absolute certain that we won’t see him here. Backup Andre Williams’ status is as yet unknown, since he too was injured during practice, several other injuries have gone around the team, and two safeties have just recently left the football program (one voluntarily, the other not). That doesn’t even take into account some of the other losses the Eagles sustained earlier this year, WR Shakim Phillips foremost amongst them.

On the Northwestern side, we had been hearing earlier in the summer things about how QB Dan Persa’s recovery was going right along to plan and that his availability in Week 1 was looking more likely. Now, nobody knows and plenty of cold water has been dumped on the prospect of him returning for the season opener against BC. After his injury last season, the Wildcats went 0-3 and Evan Watkins, the backup QB who started those games, was a combined 33 for 63 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and five picks. Northwestern was not the same team without him, and if indeed there is no Persa in this game, it may be a struggle for them again.

This is a matchup between two teams who finished with the same record but went in somewhat different directions during last season. Northwestern was looking surprisingly good early on in the year, but then they started losing some games, then they lost Persa, and then the whole season unraveled. Boston College, on the other hand, started off 2-5, but then pushed their way through a doable schedule to make a bowl game, which they also lost.

On the whole, I don’t think the difference between these two teams is very big. It promises to be a close, competitive game, which would be an interesting change from the lopsided FCS ass-stompings to which the Eagles are normally accustomed on opening day.