BOSTON -- Here's evidence that Boston College and Northern Illinois are taking their season opener seriously: Neither coach will announce his starting quarterback for the game.
What might have once seemed like a Power 5 team taking on an overmatched Mid-American Conference foe is now enough of a challenge that both BC's Steve Addazio and NIU's Rod Carey are resorting to the secrecy usually reserved for master technicians like Bill Belichick and even Jim Harbaugh.
"There's no competitive advantage for me in any way, shape, or form, to show everything what we want to do, why we want to do it," Addazio said this week as he prepared for BC's first-ever trip to the DeKalb, Illinois, campus.
"No doubt, exact same boat," Carey said. "We have to prepare for both, so they have to prepare for both."
BC has been splitting time in camp between freshman Anthony Brown and returning graduate Darius Wade, who has played in 12 games over three seasons but was a backup for Patrick Towles last year.
"When you look at these things, you look at the entire body of work. You don't ride the roller coaster day-in, day-out. I promised myself that we would do that," Addazio said. "There should be a really good competition in there, and I'm excited about that."
The Huskies have the option of junior Ryan Graham, who has played in 17 games over the past two seasons, and sophomore Daniel Santacaterina, who appeared in three games last season and started the finale against Kent State.
"I know what I'm doing and I'm just not saying," Casey said. "It's the first week before I've put anything on film that I can use that to my advantage."
Here are some more things to look for in Friday night's game:
Although BC opened up against Georgia Tech in Ireland last season, the Eagles had eased into previous seasons with games against Villanova, UMass and - last year- both Maine and Howard. After NIU, BC begins the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against Wake Forest and then meets Notre Dame and reigning national champion Clemson.
"Traditionally, people open with smaller FCS opponents," Addazio said. "We're opening with a very competitive Division I football team with history on the road at their place on Friday night. So that's a fair challenge there."
Northern Illinois is 4-2 against Power 5 schools at home - including four in a row. It will be the first visit by an ACC team to DeKalb since 2003, and the folks there are excited.
"I think this is probably the biggest game at Huskie Stadium since 2003, Maryland, for our community, and our university," Carey said. "Certainly this is the biggest nonconference game that's gone on here."
The Huskies lost 17-14 to BC in Chestnut Hill in 2015, driving to the Eagles' 35 in the closing minutes before the drive faltered on three straight incompletions.
In addition to the 2015 game, Addazio has some familiarity with the MAC. Temple was a member of the conference for one of his two years there, but the Owls didn't play Northern Illinois that season.
Still Addazio expressed admiration for the conference and the program. NIU has averaged 10 victories per year in the past seven seasons, but it has come down a bit since its heyday from 2010-14 when it won at least 11 games in each of five straight years.
"I have a good familiarity with the MAC," he said. "And that was really the pinnacle."
TIP OF THE SPEAR
BC has a big crew of running backs to turn to, but John Hilliman called himself "the tip of the spear."
"I feel like every running back wants the ball every play," said Hilliman, who was the team's leading rusher last year with 542 yards on 184 carries. "But I understand we're going to need everybody."
Hilliman said he sees the value in having both faster backs like A.J. Dillon and Travis Levy and also bruisers like Davon Jones and Richard Wilson.
But he's less concerned about who plays quarterback.
"All they've got to do," he said with a laugh, "is hand the ball off."
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