Early Week 1 preview: Northwestern

July, 5, 2011
7/05/11
9:00
AM ET
July 4 is over, which means the next big holiday is Labor Day, which means college football is around the corner. We're here to get you ready by previewing each Big Ten team's opening opponent. Let's take a look at Northwestern's first challenge of the 2011 season.

Week 1 Opponent: at Boston College

Coach: Frank Spaziani (third year, 16-11)

2010 record: 7-6 (4-4, ACC)

Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)

About the Eagles: Boston College was just 2-5 after seven games last year but rebounded to win its next five games to reach a bowl. The Eagles were young at key spots and bring a lot of experience back this season. Junior linebacker Luke Kuechly was an All-American last year after recording an eye-popping 183 tackles. Quarterback Chase Rettig, leading rusher Montel Harris and top receiver Bobby Swigert are all back. But there are only three returning starters on the offensive and defensive lines. Spaziani will have to improve an offense that ranked 109th nationally last season in both yardage and scoring.

Random factoid: Spaziani's bio says he was the last player Joe Paterno recruited as an assistant coach. He played quarterback and linebacker for the Nittany Lions from 1965-68.

Series with Northwestern: The Wildcats have won two of the three meetings. Northwestern won 22-21 in 1993 in the last game between these two teams.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Northwestern wins: 50 percent. I'm calling this a pure toss-up game, as we have one team that likes to score and has had trouble stopping people going on the road against an offensively challenged, defensively minded team. Both Northwestern and BC finished 7-6 last year. Will Dan Persa be all the way back from injury by the opener? This is clearly one of the best Week 1 matchups involving a Big Ten team.

Previously in the series

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Michigan

Michigan State

Nebraska

Minnesota

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