2009 Emerald Bowl - USC vs. Boston College
USC S Taylor Mays & BC RB Montel Harris
USC S Taylor Mays & BC RB Montel Harris
Posted Dec 20, 2009

The CFN 2009 Emerald Bowl Preview - USC vs. Boston College

2009 Emerald Bowl

Boston College (8-4) vs. USC (8-4)

San Francisco, CA, Dec. 26., 1 pm, ESPN

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Team Pages and 2009 Season
USCBoston College

- 2008 CFN Emerald Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Emerald Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Emerald Bowl Preview
National Rankings
58th Total Offense 97th
43rd Total Defense 23rd
64th Scoring Offense 71st
22nd Scoring Defense 18th
39th Rushing Offense 70th
42nd Run Defense 15th
68th Passing Offense 94th
53rd Passing Defense 55th
59th Turnover Margin 75th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
SC 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 2.5
4.5 RBs 4
4.5 Receivers 2
5 O Line 3
4 D Line 3
3 Linebackers 4
3.5 Secondary 3.5
4 Spec Teams 4
5 Coaching 3.5
Emerald Bowl History
2008 Cal 24, Miami 17
2007 Oregon State 21, Maryland 14
2006 Florida State 44, UCLA 27
2005 Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10
2004 Navy 34, New Mexico 19
2003 Boston Col 35, Colorado St 21
2002 Virginia Tech 20, Air Force 13
Sorry, but it's going to take a while getting used to USC and the Emerald Bowl being in the same sentence. It's just such a strange marriage of the perennial powerhouse and the second-tier postseason game.

After seven straight Pac-10 championships and BCS bowl appearances, the Trojans are in a rut for the first time since Pete Carroll arrived earlier in the decade. Yet, even after getting upset in Seattle by Washington on Sept. 19, most felt Troy would rally once more and win the league. And even after getting pounded in Eugene on Halloween, conventional wisdom said it would still nab an at-large BCS bowl berth. However, losses down the stretch to Stanford and Arizona made it patently clear that for the first time in years, this is a very ordinary, middle-of-the-pack Pac-10 team. Strange times indeed in the City of Angels.

So what's gone wrong at USC? The talent is still the envy of the West and Carroll is as motivated as ever to be the king of the hill. Maybe complacency has set in among the kids after a dynastic run of seven straight 11-win seasons, six of which ended with BCS bowl victories. Or maybe the staff assisting Carroll isn't doing enough to coach up and prepare those five-star players during game week. For this game, it might be the controversy surrounding Joe McKnight and his questionable ride. Whatever it is, something was clearly missing this fall. The Trojans simply have too much talent to allow at least 36 points three different times in the second half of the year and misfire regularly on offense. Sure, true freshman Matt Barkley was at the controls since the opener, but he's too gifted for that to be an acceptable excuse.

Troy needs to get to the root of this year's demise before the situation becomes a trend. That process will begin on Saturday in San Francisco, an improbable destination for the Trojans to close out this difficult season.

USC can't believe it's playing a December bowl game at AT&T Park. For that matter, neither can Boston College. Surely, this was going to be the year that the Eagles' 10-game postseason streak came to an end, right? The coach got unceremoniously canned early in the year, the projected starting quarterback transferred, and the star linebacker, Mark Herzlich, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in the spring. Yet, here they are, winners of eight games and eyeing a spot in the final Top 25 with an upset on Saturday night.

Without the same attention given to other ACC schools, like Georgia Tech and Clemson, first-year head coach Frank Spaziani quietly did a solid job on the Heights. With just one first team all-conference player on each side of the ball and sporadic help from the offense, Boston College was competitive throughout the season, finishing in second place in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles used a familiar formula from the Tom O'Brien days, leaning on a workhorse out of the backfield and a stingy, no-name defense. It may not be particularly sexy, but it's worked more times than not this fall.

With a lot of determination and a little help from newcomers, Boston College has unexpectedly kept its head above water in 2009. With most of the two-deep, including Herzlich, expected back, Spaziani and the Eagles are viewing the Emerald Bowl as a chance to get a head start on a 2010 season that should be even better.

Players to Watch: By far, the Eagles' most reliable offensive player has been RB Montel Harris, who's No. 2 in the ACC in rushing and has gone over 100 yards in each of the last four games. Consistent with the personality of the team, he's a no-nonsense runner, hitting the hole with authority and rarely getting stopped for negative yards. He'll need to be prolific to compensate for a Boston College passing game that produces as many turnovers as big plays. Harris' biggest challenge will be navigating the middle of the USC defense. Yeah, this hasn't been vintage Trojans this year, but DT Jurrell Casey and LB Chris Galippo are a couple of sophomores with outstanding futures. Both will No. 2 in their crosshairs from the opening drive.

If Eagle QB David Shinskie has problems with average ACC pass defenses, how is he going to solve one of the most talented defensive backfields in the country? No team in the conference threw more interceptions than Boston College, which is going to look like fresh meat to the Trojans. Flush with next-level talent, Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard, Kevin Thomas, and Will Harris all received some All-Pac-10 recognition in early December. If receivers Rich Gunnell and Colin Larmond can't wiggle free occasionally, it'll make stopping Harris on the ground markedly easier. The reason Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford had so much success moving the ball on USC in the second half of the year is that they were balanced. BC will also need to achieve it, with some help from the erratic Shinskie.

For Barkley, this is going to be the final exam of his rookie season. Though the talent and upside is unequivocal, he did seem to regress throughout the year, finishing seventh in the league in passing efficiency. He's surrounded by ample playmakers, like WR Damian Williams and backs Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford, but the Trojans still went the last five games without scoring more than 28 points. If Barkley is to change that trend, he'll need to pepper a defense that's allowing just 318 yards and 19 points a game. The improbable leader of that unit is true freshman LB Luke Kuechly, whose role expanded when Herzlich was lost for the season. All he did in his debut was lead the ACC with 142 tackles and 12.5 stops for loss, laying the foundation for a fantastic career in Chestnut Hill.

Boston College will win if ... it can effectively neutralize USC's edge in speed. The Trojans have the advantage in athleticism. That's obvious. However, Boston College has had a knack for slowing down the tempo of the game and dragging flashier opponents into an alley fight. And that's exactly what it'll need to do in order to upset USC. On offense, the Eagles want to grind it out with Harris, milking the clock and extending drives, even if they end with a Steve Aponavicius field goal try. On defense, they'll be looking to pressure Barkley, prevent the big play, and keep all of those thoroughbreds from getting out of the gate. If this is an ugly, low-scoring game in the second half, a more motivated Boston College squad will have a chance to pull it out. The longer this is a game, the harder it'll be for the Trojans to drum up some intensity and motivation.

USC will win if ... Shinskie is put in a position to win the game. If it comes down to Boston College needing the passing game to deliver, it's just not going to happen. A former major league baseball player, Shinskie still needs more polish, which won't come against a loaded USC secondary. Essentially, the Trojans need to win the battle in the trenches, preventing Harris from getting outside the box and consistently knocking the quarterback to the grass. Beyond just Casey and Galippo, Troy will need a big night from ends Everson Griffen and Nick Perry, and linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan. The Eagles, as usual, have a quality offensive line that's led by C Matt Tennant and LT Anthony Castonzo. If the Trojans can handle this front wall and create a push, Boston College will have problems even approaching its season average of 25 points a game.

What will happen: Motivation is a very tricky thing this time of year. You never really know who has it and who's just saying all the right things. Does USC want to be here? Of course not. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure if it'll be evident after the opening kickoff. Purely on talent, the Trojans will be able to escape a feisty bunch of Eagles who view this as a rare opportunity to knock off one of the nation's premier programs in front of a national TV audience. On offense, USC will control the line of scrimmage, using superior line play to spring McKnight and Bradford for 150 yards and a couple of scores on the ground. The beleaguered defense won't have too many issues with a one-dimensional offense, focusing on Harris and daring Shinskie to beat it downfield. It won't be a thing of beauty, but after such a disappointing season, USC will have something positive to cling to heading into the offseason.

CFN Prediction: USC 27 … Boston College 10 ... Line: USC -9

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Best Eagle Bowl Moment: The 1984 season will forever be remembered fondly by Eagle fans. It was the year of Flutie, the Heisman and the miracle in Miami. It was also the scene of Boston College's first bowl win in 44 years, a 45-28 thumping of Houston in the 1985 Cotton Bowl. Flutie threw three touchdown passes, but the real hero was running back Troy Stradford, who ran for 196 yards and was named the game's MVP.

Best Trojan Bowl Moment: There have been a ton of memorable Rose Bowl wins in USC's storied past; however, the 2005 Orange Bowl was the site of the program's most impressive moment, a 55-19 demolition of unbeaten Oklahoma to win a second straight national championship. Matt Leinart set an Orange Bowl record with five touchdown passes, while the mighty Trojans raised debates whether they were a modern-day dynasty.

USC Bowl History (31-16)
2009 Rose USC 38, Penn St 14
2008 Rose USC 49, Illinois 17
2007 Rose USC 32, Michigan 18
2006 Rose Texas 41, USC 38
2005 Orange USC 55, Oklahoma 19
2004 Rose USC 28, Michigan 14
2003 Orange USC 38, Iowa 17
2001 Las Vegas Utah 10, USC 6
1998 Sun TCU 28, USC 19
1995 Rose USC 41, Northwestern 32
1994 Cotton USC 55, Texas Tech 14
1993 Freedom USC 28, Utah 21
1992 Freedom Fresno State 24, USC 7
1990 John Hancock Michigan St 17, USC 16
1989 Rose USC 17, Michigan 10
1988 Rose Michigan 22, USC 14
1987 Rose Michigan St 20, USC 17
1986 Citrus Auburn 16, USC 7
1985 Aloha Alabama 24, USC 3
1984 Rose USC 20, Ohio State 17
1981 Fiesta Penn State 26, USC 10
1979 Rose USC 17, Ohio State 16
1978 Rose USC 17, Michigan 10
1977 Bluebonnet USC 47, Texas A&M 28
1976 Rose USC 14, Michigan 6
1975 Liberty USC 20, Texas A&M 0
1974 Rose USC 18, Ohio State 17
1973 Rose Ohio State 42, USC 21
1972 Rose USC 42, Ohio State 17
1969 Rose USC 10, Michigan 3
1968 Rose Ohio State 27, USC 16
1967 Rose USC 14, Indiana 3
1966 Rose Purdue 14, USC 13
1962 Rose USC 42, Wisconsin 37
1954 Rose Ohio State 20, USC 7
1952 Rose USC 7, Wisconsin 0
1948 Rose Michigan 49, USC 0
1945 Rose Alabama 34, USC 14
1944 Rose USC 25, Tennessee 0
1943 Rose USC 29, Washington 0
1939 Rose USC 14, Tennessee 0
1938 Rose USC 7, Duke 3
1932 Rose USC 35, Pittsburgh 0
1931 Rose USC 21, Tulane 12
1929 Rose USC 47, Pittsburgh 14
1924 Christmas Festival USC 20, Missouri 7
1922 Rose USC 14, Pittsburgh 3
BC Bowl History (13-7)
2008 Music City Vanderbilt 16, Boston College 14
2007 Champs Sports Boston College 24, Michigan State 21
2006 Meineke Boston College 37, Navy 24
2005 MPC Computers Boston College 27, Boise State 21
2004 Continental Tire Boston College 37, North Carolina 24
2003 San Francisco Boston College 35, Colorado State 21
2002 Motor City Boston College 51, Toledo 25
2001 Music City Boston College 20, Georgia 16
2000 Aloha Boston College 31, Arizona State 17
1999 Insight.com Colorado 62, Boston College 28
1994 Aloha Boston College 12, Kansas State 7
1993 Carquest Boston College 31, Virginia 13
1992 Hall of Fame Tennessee 38, Boston College 23
1986 Hall of Fame Boston College 27, Georgia 24
1984 Cotton Boston College 45, Houston 28
1983 Liberty Notre Dame 19, Boston College 18
1982 Tangerine Auburn 33, Boston College 26
1942 Orange Alabama 37, Boston College 21
1940 Sugar Boston College 19, Tennessee 13
1939 Cotton Clemson 6, Boston College 3