’Cats, Illini, Irish all should be just fine in first tests of season

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BOSTON COLLEGE AT NORTHERN ILLINOIS

The facts: Friday, 8:30 p.m., CBSSN; 560-AM.

The records: Boston College 0-0, NIU 0-0.

The line: Eagles by 3½.

The story line: Wouldn’t it be nice if the Huskies could count on good health at the quarterback position for a change? First, they’ll have to settle on who’s playing; it could be junior Ryan Graham or sophomore Daniel Santacaterina, or both. The Eagles, by the way, have their own QB uncertainly to sort out. If NIU can run the ball effectively, it’ll slow down BC’s pass rush — a must.

Greenberg’s pick: BC, 23-17.

BALL STATE AT ILLINOIS

The facts: 11 a.m., BTN (alternate); 670-AM.

The records: Ball State 0-0, Illinois 0-0.

The line: Illini by 6½.

The story line: Ball State’s experience matching up with Big Ten opponents can be summed up as three victories over Indiana and dozens of defeats against everybody else. Unless the Illini run defense is a no-show — which would be crushing to believers in Lovie Smith — it should be a fine day at Memorial Stadium. What with the point spread opening at 11 and dropping nearly by half?

Greenberg’s pick: Illinois, 38-20.

NEVADA AT NORTHWESTERN

The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN; 720-AM.

The records: Nevada 0-0, Northwestern 0-0.

The line: Wildcats by 24.

The story line: Bring on the Air Raid offense. Nevada will throw — and throw some more — when it has the football, but the strength of Northwestern’s defense is in the back end. The Wolf Pack’s bigger problems will be NU’s running game, powered by Justin Jackson, and its terrific, underrated quarterback, Clayton Thorson. Pat Fitzgerald’s team knows it can’t gag its way through September like it did a year ago.

Greenberg’s pick: Northwestern, 34-14.

TEMPLE AT NOTRE DAME

The facts: 2:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 890-AM.

The records: Temple 0-0, Notre Dame 0-0.

The line: Irish by 18½.

The story line: Pressure? What pressure? No doubt, Brian Kelly is under the gun to deliver a big season to Irish fans. The only grade anyone could give Kelly for his performance last season is an F, but that’s in the past. The Irish need to play defense, which they didn’t a year ago. They need to take care of the football, which they didn’t a year ago. They need to show a collective pulse down the stretch of close games, which … you get it. Temple? Please. This should not be a fair fight.

Greenberg’s pick: Notre Dame, 41-10.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com


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