Kickoff Time: Noon ET
Radio: ESPN 1000, WNUR Radio
The Wildcats kick off the 2011 campaign with a tough road test against the Boston College Golden Eagles. There are plenty of storylines for Saturday's game. High expectations for this season are met by growing concerns. A number of questions will be answered on Saturday.
Will Persa play?
Dan Persa was supposed to be the biggest story this weekend, but for a different reason. The season-open was thought to be Persa's first game back from injury. Instead, his status is still up in the air. Persa is listed as questionable for Saturday's game.
During his Monday press conference, Pat Fitzgerald said everyone will know if Persa plays when the offense takes the field. Whether his status has been decided or not remains to be seen. Shortly after kickoff, we'll know a lot about Persa's Achilles.
If not Persa, then Kain?
Kain Colter was labeled as Northwestern QB 1B by Pat Fitzgerald. If Persa is unable to play, Colter will be QB 1, instead. Colter has never started a game. In fact, he has only thrown nine passes. Is he ready?
Pat Fitzgerald said on Monday that he believes so. He has reason to be optimistic. Colter has shown vast improvements with his game and his knowledge of the playbook. Of course, you can't simulate game action in practice. Regardless if Persa starts or not, we'll likely see a heavy dose of Colter.
How will the defense look?
After a rocky end to the 2010 season, Northwestern's defense has a fresh start on Saturday. Wildcat fans are hoping to see a positive change on the defense. The Golden Eagles will provide a tough test. Boston College has had great success with the ground game under head coach Frank Spaziani. They will be missing starting running back Montel Harris, but still have a deep group.
The purple-clad fans in Alumni Stadium will likely be watching this unit closely with hopes of a transformation from last season. The first test is a tough one. Will they be ready?
Who gets the carries?
Another major question mark on offense has been at running back. Jacob Schmidt and Mike Trumpy were listed as co-starters on the depth chart released last week. Both are likely to see playing time, as are Adonis Smith and Tyris Jones. How will reps be divided?
Trumpy and Smith provide an all-around solid game, while Schmidt and Jones serve as solid power backs. It will be interesting to see how the reps are divided against the Golden Eagles. You also have to factor in that the rushing attack will be counted on if Persa is not healthy.
Depth at wide receiver
First-year receivers coach Dennis Springer—who is coaching his first game with NU on Saturday—inherited a strong group of receivers. Either Persa or Colter will have plenty of targets to throw to.
Senior WR Jeremy Ebert remains Northwestern's top receiver. Last season, he hauled in 62 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and racked up eight touchdowns. After Ebert, Demetrius Fields, Charles Brown, and Rashad Lawrence are each penciled in as first-team receivers.