In one of the more exciting non-conference matchups of the weekend, the Northwestern Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will host the Boston College Eagles (1-1, 0-1 ACC) Saturday.
Boston College rebounded from a season-opening, 41-32 defeat to the Miami Hurricanes to trounce Maine 34-3 last weekend, and looks to build on that momentum to keep its non-conference slate clean.
Northwestern is fresh off a morale-boosting win against SEC foes Vanderbilt, and looks to run wild with a talented dual-threat quarterback and a fiery home crowd.
Here's everything you need to know about Saturday's matchup.
Where: Evanston, Ill.
When: Saturday, September 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: WEEI 850 AM (Boston College), WGN Radio 720 AM (Northwestern)
Live Stream: No official stream available
Betting Line (via Bovada): Northwestern -3.5
Boston College Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- LB Josh Keyes is questionable with a concussion
- TE Brian Miller is questionable with a knee injury
- DB Spenser Rositano is questionable with a lung issue
- WR Colin Larmond, Jr. is questionable with a leg injury
- G Harris Williams is questionable with a foot injury
- WR Bobby Swigert is out indefinitely with a left knee injury
- DB Al Louis-Jean, Jr. is out indefinitely with a foot injury
- TE Chris Pantale is out 3-6 weeks with a broken bone in his foot
Northwestern Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- No injuries to report
Neither of these teams were expected to seriously contend for a BCS bowl, and that still rings true two weeks into the season.
Northwestern certainly looks more the part of a team that could make a run, but there's a serious question if its defense can compete in the B1G. The Wildcats are far from the best team in this conference, and they have some serious statements to make if they want to get into the BCS conversation.
What They're Saying
It's no secret that Northwestern will live and die with its defensive prowess, and that could be what decides this game.
Their performance on the defensive side of the ball has been a tale of two games, as they gave up 41 points to Syracuse in a one-point, 42-41 win in their opening game. They turned around to beat the suddenly-SEC-relevant Vanderbilt Commodores 23-13 in what was a big statement to their high aspirations for 2012.
Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune believes that Northwestern's defense could be on the mend after a strong performance against Vanderbilt, but there's no guessing what could happen after their Week 1 performance against Syracuse.
On the other side of the token, Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe notes that the Eagles' receiving core is making strides to become a massive game-changer.
Boston College Player to Watch
Junior WR Johnathan Coleman had a coming out party against Maine last Saturday, with three receptions for 51 yards and his first career touchdown.
When fellow receiver, senior Colin Larmond, said Coleman could play Division 1 basketball (h/t Boston Globe), he wasn't kidding. Coleman showcased his leaping ability and pure athleticism against Maine and proved that he's worthy of a starting spot on the Eagles' offense.
Boston College will have to expect more of the same out of Coleman and his fellow receivers if the Eagles will have a chance against Northwestern's potent offense.
Northwestern Player to Watch
Stud running back Venric Mark has stolen the show for Northwestern's offense this season with big-time numbers through the season's first two games, and they'll need him to run free Saturday.
Mark has tallied 205 rushing yards so far in 2012, including three touchdowns. Those three TDs were split evenly between rushing, receiving and punt returns.
His special teams elusiveness earned him special teams player of the week honors against Syracuse in a game where his team desperately needed it. His 82-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Wildcats a shot in the arm, and he finished the game with 282 all-purpose yards.
Against a vulnerable Boston College defense, Mark could have another big day.
Northwestern's junior quarterback Kain Colter hasn't been lighting up the stat sheets so far this season by any means, but he's getting the job done.
Colter has notched just 177 passing yards on 21 completions in the Wildcats' first two games, but Northwestern has still compiled 65 combined points in those two games. Part of that is due to his 106 combined rushing yards for the season.
Those aren't the type of passing numbers you want from your starter, but he's getting the results as his team is 2-0.
And if you're Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald, that's the only statistic that ultimately matters.
This has all of the makings to be a great game, but the pendulum is still swinging in just one direction.
Northwestern has all of the weapons necessary and the outright best football players on the field, and that will show Saturday. Expect the Wildcats to feed off their home crowd and win this one with ease.
Northwestern 30, Boston College 17
- Steven Cook is a TNT breaking news writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for all things college football and more.