September 4, 2009

Know Thy Enemy: Northeastern Huskies Team Preview

The rubber meets the road this coming Saturday as Northeastern heads into Alumni Stadium to play the Eagles for the first time since 1999. While Boston College has had its fair share of adversity leading up to this game, they couldn't ask for a better team to start off against than the Huskies.

Northeastern is coming off of a dismal 2008 season where they finished 2-10 (1-7 in the Colonial Conference). That record may be a little deceiving as five of the Colonial Conference's teams made the final 16 of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2008, with Richmond winning the FCS championship. Let's see how they matchup with the Eagles.

Northeastern on Offense:

Northeastern is shifting their offense from the Wildcat to more of a spread - four to five wideout formation this season. In order to be able to execute this pass-first type of offense, Northeastern head coach Rocky Hager is showing that he has faith in his offensive line. Their offensive line averages roughly 6 feet 4 inches and 299 pounds, which might be the primary reason they only allowed 11 sacks of all last season.

The quarterback position for Northeastern is a bit of a question mark. It's quite possible to see both quarterbacks, junior Alex Dulski and redshirt freshman Matt Carroll see time in this game. They both have the ability to throw the 15-yard out as well as the deep ball, however neither of them has played a down in their career. It will be imperative for the Eagles to get a good pass rush going early to disrupt any rhythm the Huskies might get in. Expect to see Alex Albright, Damik Scafe, and the rest of the defensive line get penetration and force quick decisions from the Huskies' signal callers.

Junior John Griffin will handle most of the running duties, and he's known for his sprinting abilities during track and field season. While he's had limited starting time, the one game he did start last year against Rhode Island resulted in a 100-yard game.

Huskies senior wideout Tony Lott could cause some matchup problems at 6 foot 3 inches, 223 pounds. The four-year starter possesses the strength and physicality to go up and get the ball against smaller defenders.

Northeastern on Defense:

Northeastern's 3-4 defense is led by its strong linebacking unit. Senior Phil Higgins had 122 tackles (75 solo) last season, and one would expect to see him all over the field. David Akinniyi is a player to watch as he led the team with six sacks last year, and will shift between the defensive line and outside linebacker positions.

I would expect the Eagles to have a field day running the ball against this defensive front however. The remaining three defensive line starters are undersized, and will be overmatched. If the Eagles offensive linemen get down to the second level, Montel Harris, Josh Haden and Jeff Smith will be looking for paydirt.

In the defensive secondary, #2 Nate Thellen is the man to watch. The free safety out of Brockton High was all-conference in 2008, and has four preseason all-conference awards heading into 2009. He's shown that he can play up to BCS competition as he had nine tackles against Syracuse last season. He also led the team with five interceptions, including three in one game against UC Davis.

Stat Central:

Northeastern allowed 238 yards per game passing (last in the Colonial conference) against 190 yards per game rushing last season. Their offense averaged 119 rushing yards and 198 passing yards per game. . . and you wonder why they moved to the spread offense.

The Huskies allowed 29 points per game while only averaging 19 points per game on offense.

Boston College leads the all-time series 4 wins to zero, with three of those wins in the 1930's.

Bottom Line:

Coach Hager's squad will to try to get into a shootout, but the Eagles will control the clock with their solid running attack and wear down the Huskies' defensive front. I expect this game to be close until about mid-way through the second quarter.

While the Huskies matchup well with Boston College well from a size perspective on offense, their inexperience and lack of speed should leave their defense in some compromising positions.

Look for Boston College to run some zone-blitz schemes on defense to confuse the Huskies' quarterbacks. Then go look for your car before the fourth quarter begins.

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