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2015 MAC football non-conference previews: Boston College Eagles

BC will play host to the Huskies this fall.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston College Eagles will end September with a game against the reigning MAC Champs, the Northern Illinois Huskies. It will be just the second ever meeting between the two schools, and the first in 44 years!  Way back in 1971 BC bounced the Huskies with a 20-10 win. But, as the Eagles have agreed to a home-and-home series with NIU, they will be meeting again soon - either next year or in 2017.

The Eagles aren't strangers to MAC schools, as this will be the 47 time BC will get some #MACtion. Boston College boasts a 38-7-1 record against current MAC schools, with the vast majority of the games coming against UMass (25 games, with a 20-4-1 record) and Buffalo (eight games, 6-2 record).

Last season the Eagles finished 7-6 with a 4-4 record in the ACC, which put them right in the middle of the conference. They had a few great games; like beating #9 USC, hanging with #24 Clemson, and nearly upsetting #3 Florida State. Over the past few seasons, they have shown a lot of improvement.

The Eagles offense is eerily similar to the Huskies. They don't spread you out like NIU does but they do run just as much, and just as well. BC was 15th in rushing yards last season averaging 254.4 yards per game (NIU was 17th, with 249.1) but almost dead last in passing, ranking 124th with only 129.3 yards through the air per game (NIU was 99th with 192).

However, there is some good news for the Huskies. BC only returns three offensive starters and just six on defense. The vast majority of their statistical leaders from a season ago are gone, including their do-it-all QB, Tyler Murphy, who led the team in passing yards, rushing yards, and touchdowns. Murphy tallied up 1623 passing yards, 1184 rushing yards, and 24 touchdowns (which was about 45% of their scoring from last year). I don't know if he had a nickname, but he should have been called Eagleman...if not only to bring back these terribly-awesome commercials:

Even though "Eagleman" is gone, they do return their second leading rusher and starting half back - Jon Hilliman, a 6'-224 pound sophomore, who netted 860 yards and 13 TDs on 210 carries last year.

But outside of Hilliman, BC doesn't get much else back. Their most experienced QB is now Darius Wade, who was 3-8 for 23 yards and had 12 rushing yards in 2014. And at wide out they have Sherman Alston and Charlie Callinan who combined for LESS than 325 yards last year.

On defense the Eagles return their leading tackler, Justin Simmons. Simmons is a 6-3 senior DB that doesn't let players get away. Of his 76 tackles last year, 63 were unassisted...meaning if he gets you, he'll bring you down. He also had five pass breakups, two INT, two TFL, and a sack.

Senior linebacker Steven Daniels will be patrolling the middle of the field and, at 6'-257 pounds, he's an absolute beast. Last season he was second in tackles with 72 and also added seven tackles for loss, recovered two fumbles, had 1.5 sacks, and intercepted a pass.

Overall, this is a toss up game. It could go either way. For BC, offensively, it'll essentially be a completely new unit going against an NIU defense that brings back eight starters. NIU has been stellar against the rush the past few years, and last season they held teams to just 163 rushing yards per game. BC will need to find a way to get a rushing attack going or find a way to be successful in the air against the Huskies if they want to put points up.

BC's defense is bigger and more talented than the Huskies are used to but NIU's no stranger to P5 teams now. Plus the Huskies up-tempo pace and speed/depth at running back and receivers could wear the Eagles defense down the longer the game goes on. Last season Colorado State, another very solid mid-major team, did just that and walked out of Chestnut Hill with a victory.

Both teams will be coming off tough games (BC plays Florida State September 18th and NIU plays Ohio State the 19th) and could be worn down and beat up heading into this matchup. It'll be interesting to see who rebounds best.

This is, like I said earlier, a game that could go either team's way...so make sure you're tuned in September 26th.