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Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Boston College Eagles football preview

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The Huskies will travel to Chestnut Hill to take on one of the nation's best defenses.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies (2-1, 0-0 MAC) will head East to take on the Boston College Eagles (2-1, 0-1 ACC) this Saturday, September 26th, at 1 p.m. EST (Noon CST). This will be just the second meeting between the two schools, with BC winning the first game 20-10 way back in 1971.

Both teams are fresh off of close games against top-10 opponents. The Eagles battled with No. 9 Florida State last Friday but fell 14-0. The Huskies gave No. 1 Ohio State all it could handle last week but couldn't find their offense in the 20-13 loss to the Buckeyes.

This week the major story will be both teams' defenses.

Against UNLV and Murray State, NIU struggled early on defense but last week the Huskies' defense showed what it was capable of doing. They forced five turnovers (three picks and two fumbles) and held the reigning National Champs to just 298 total yards and 13 offensive points.

Boston College has only allowed 17 points all season long! Yes, two of those games were against FCS teams Maine and Howard...but the third was against a very good Seminole team, which BC held to 14 points! The Eagles have only allowed 317 total yards all season...112 rushing yards and 205 passing yards.

The linebackers and D-line get in the backfield really quickly, as they have amassed 11 sacks and 27 tackles for loss totaling -223 yards so far. Sophomore D-lineman Harold Landry leads the team in tackles (16), TFL (8), sacks (3), and forced fumbles (2). Senior linebacker Steven Daniels is right behind him with 13 tackles, three TFL, and a sack. Overall, 14 BC players have a TFL or sack.

Offensively, BC played well the first two weeks but struggled mightily last game. Boston College is much more of a running team and so far this year they have accumulated almost double the rushing yards to passing yards (690 rushing, 347 passing). Four players have 90+ yards and they have scored on the ground 10 times, as opposed to three through the air.

Much like NIU, they have a committee of running backs that include Jon Hilliman (27 carries for 79 yards with a TD), Tyler Rouse (16 carries for 119 yards and five TDs), Myles Willis (15 carries for 117 yards), and Marcus Outlow (16 carries for 90 yards and a TD) in addition to their quarterbacks who have combined for 197 yards on 33 carries and three scores.

No one on BC has more than five receptions or 60 yards (Bobby Wolford leads the team with five grabs and 57 yards), so the Huskies shouldn't have to worry about the passing game too much. Especially now that the Eagles have lost their starting quarterback for the season.

Darius Wade, who was 21-for-42 for 232 yards with two passing TDs and ran for another 73 yards, broke his ankle against FSU. To fill his absence the Eagles will most likely go with freshman Troy Flutie, the nephew of the famous Doug Flutie. This year he has gone 8-10 with 97 yards and thrown a touchdown while also running the ball four times for 27 yards. Their other option is Jeff Smith, who has only attempted three passes but completed two of them for 18 while also rushing seven times for 97 yards and three touchdowns.

For NIU, the offense had played pretty well against teams not named Ohio State, before struggling last week. Quarterback Drew Hare, came into the OSU game completing 78 percent of his passes, averaging just under 360 yards per game, with six scores and no interceptions. Now his stats look less video game and more human: 67.4 percent, 798 yards, six TDs, and two picks through three games.

Kenny Golladay is still the best offensive weapon the Huskies have, as he has the big play ability every time he's around the ball. Golladay has 20 receptions for 376 yards and two scores.

The Huskies, who have been known as a running team for quite some time, have had some problems getting the ground attack going this year. Joel Bouagnon leads all rushers with 57 attempts, netting 282 yards and five TDs. No one else has more than 72 yards.

If the Huskies want to beat a P5 team for the fourth straight year, their defense is going to need to stuff the run and force the pass. That begins with the linebackers: Boomer Mays, Renard Cheren, and Sean Folliard. Mays and Cheren are ranked first and second in tackles while Folliard is fifth.

NIU defense is currently tied for fourth in the NCAA by creating nine turnovers (two fumbles, seven interceptions), and most likely will need to force at least two if they want to stay competitive with this stout BC defense.

Overall, this is a toss up game that could go either way. Both teams played very solid against highly ranked opponents last week. Boston College does have an extra day of rest and plays at home...but with a backup quarterback and a struggling offense matching up against a strong NIU team, who knows.

You can catch the game on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app at 1 p.m. (12 p.m. CST) this Saturday.