USC To Battle Boston College In Emerald Bowl

Dec. 14, 2009

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It's a West-versus-East matchup in the Emerald Bowl as a pair of 8-4 teams--USC and Boston College--battle the day after Christmas. It's just the third meeting between the Trojans and Eagles, and the first in 21 years (the teams are slated to meet again in the near future). USC, which claims one of the nation's top bowl traditions, will be making its 48th post-season appearance and its school-record ninth consecutive, but this will be its debut in the Emerald Bowl. The Trojans are unranked for the first time since the end of 2001, their last season in a non-BCS bowl. BC, which is playing in its 11th bowl in a row, is the first team to make a return visit to the Emerald Bowl (it won there in 2003). USC--winner of its last 15 non-conference games--traditionally has fared well in bowls, against the ACC, at night, in December and also in season enders. Troy rarely has played in stadiums with a baseball diamond (this one is in 40,184-seat AT&T Park) and it's an even rarer game for the Trojans in the city of San Francisco. ESPN will show the game nationally; the first time USC ever appeared on ESPN was against BC in 1988. USC beat the teams' only common 2009 foe, Notre Dame, while the Eagles lost to the Irish. After putting together a streak of 7 consecutive AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl appearances, Pac-10 titles and 11-win seasons, the young, rebuilding Trojans had a tougher go in 2009 while playing one of the nation's toughest schedules (USC has lost 3 of its last 5 games). The Trojans' up-and-down offense sports a trio of 2009 All-Pac-10 first teamers (WR-PR Damian Williams, OG-C Jeff Byers and OT Charles Brown) and they are joined by the likes of true freshman QB Matt Barkley and TBs Joe McKnight (1,000-plus rushing yards in 2009) and beefy Allen Bradford. USC's defense, which started the season in dominant fashion until falling off some by midyear (it is still highly-ranked in scoring defense), features 3-time All-American first team S Taylor Mays and up-and-coming LB Malcolm Smith. USC head coach Pete Carroll, a Bay Area native, is college football's second winningest active coach. Media expectations were low for Boston College coming into 2009, but first-year head coach Frank Spaziani guided the Eagles to an ACC runnerup finish. Like USC, BC's offense starts a true freshman at quarterback (QB Dave Shinskie, but he's 25 years old after a minor league baseball career), has a 1,000-yard running back (RB Montel Harris, who is 18th nationally in rushing), features a wide receiver who was the team MVP (WR Rich Gunnell, who ranks high on the school's career receiving charts) and has an all-league lineman (OT Anthony Castonzo). Spearheading a BC defensive unit that is in the nation's Top 25 in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense is true frosh Luke Kuechly, who was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and is second nationally in tackles. PK Steve Aponavicius, BC's most accurate kicker ever, owns school career records for points and PATs. Much like USC when TB Stafon Johnson suffered a serious throat injury in an early-season weightlifting accident, Boston College had to deal with off-field adversity in 2009. Eagles LB Mark Herzlich, a 2008 All-American first teamer who was the ACC Defensive MVP and a Butkus Award finalist, missed this season while battling bone cancer. Both Johnson and Herzlich are on the road to recovery and have proved inspirational to teammates and fans.

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