So, we did a little Q&A with the guys over at BC Interruption for Saturday's game.
These are our questions for them...
1.) Boston College has an effective running back in sophomore Montel Harris, who rushed for 1,355 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Eagles. How much success do you anticipate Harris having against a vulnerable USC run defense that was dominated by Oregon and Stanford?
Jeff: Montel Harris is in for a strong game in the bowl. He got worked really hard this season after Josh Haden decided to leave the team. Without much time to rest, you could see the workload taking a toll on Harris. He was unable to break as many big plays and be spectacular as the season wore on. He was still able to mount up 100 yard games, but after the NC State game, he has probably been looking forward to the end of the regular season and some rest. I expect Harris to be a thorn in SC's side but it will still depend on Shinskie and having a balanced offense in order for the Eagles to have a great offensive day and get the victory.
2.) Quarterback Dave Shinskie was relatively inconsistent this year. At times, he looked brilliant in throwing for 3 touchdowns against Wake Forest, but in other games, he struggled (3 and 4 interceptions against Notre Dame and North Carolina respectively). Which player shows up against the Trojans?
Brian: The most honest answer I can give is I just don’t know. It has been a roller-coaster season for Shinskie. After Justin Tuggle and Shinskie stunk up the joint at Clemson back in September, Shinskie turned in two solid performances against Wake Forest and Florida State at home. Those two games were followed by a dud performance at Virginia Tech. Against the Hokies, Shinskie completed only 1 of 12 passing for 4 yards, 2 INTs, and a -22.2 passer rating. I didn’t even know you could have a negative passer rating! Shinskie then returned home for a good performance against NC State, had so-so games at Notre Dame (2 of those 3 interceptions against Notre Dame were late in the fourth when he pressed) and vs. Central Michigan, and a moderate-to-bad game at Virginia. Another terrible performance against UNC was followed by an OK performance against Maryland in the regular season finale. Against the Terps, Shinskie didn’t make any mistakes and was a competent game manager.
During the season, we thought the trend to be gleaned from Shinskie’s performance were that he was just terrible on the road. But then he goes and puts in an OK performance against Maryland. So I think the more appropriate theme from Shinskie this year was that he struggles against teams with good defenses. That’s bad news for the Eagles. The teams the Eagles lost to this year had defenses who ranked 6th (Virginia Tech), 13th (North Carolina), 24th (Clemson) and 80th (Notre Dame) in pass efficiency defense. Shinskie's performance was good enough to win against Notre Dame. The Eagles simply had a costly goalline fumble that really turned the tide in that game. Meanwhile, his best statistical performance was against a Florida State team that ranks 113th in pass efficiency defense. Given that ‘SC’s defense ranks 16th in that category, I would expect to see more of the inconsistent Shinskie than the brilliant Shinskie on Saturday.
3.) Matt Barkley struggled down the stretch, particularly against some of the teams. BC has a pretty solid defense, holding all opponents to just 19.4 points per game. Do you expect the Eagles to have their fair share of success against Barkley and a stagnant 'SC offense.
Jeff: USC has only average 20 points per game in their last five where they went 2-3. I would think the Eagles would be able to hold them to a similar total but without having a very good handle on how good the Pac-10 is this season, little if anything, would surprise me out of USC against BC. I always have trouble measuring expectations for the Pac-10 teams going into bowl games largely because they play 9 conference games and only 3 non-conference games each season. The Pac-10 teams are sometimes overrated after beating up on the conference's bottom feeders throughout the year and other times are underrated because they have no marquee non-conference wins. This year's win against Ohio State seems like a distant memory and like it happened at a time when there was a different level of effort and execution from some aspects the USC team. The win against Notre Dame now has little meaning because of what Notre Dame did this season and the fact that they are not headed to a bowl game. So will the past couple of weeks allow Barkley and the offense to get some things figured out or will Joe McKnight's absense be too much to overcome? We'll find out on Saturday. BC has a very good defense but a lot of their success will depend on what USC brings. Since it's somewhat disappointing for the Trojans to be in this bowl, no one really knows what they'll bring.
4.) Which match-up gives BC the best chance for success? Worst?
Brian: As Montel Harris goes, so will the Eagles. The matchup that gives the Eagles the best chance for success is the Eagles running game vs. the Trojan run defense. Eagles fans are hoping that BC can put up similar performances to Oregon (391 yards rushing) and Stanford (325 yards) on the ground. The Eagles’ offensive line has had a few injuries throughout the year and they have had a month to get healthy. As you would expect, the Eagles are 6-1 when Harris rushes for over 100 yards and 2-3 when he fails to reach the century mark. That being said, Harris will be asked to carry a bulk of the load on the ground and there are very few options outside of Harris. BC’s backup running back Josh Haden decided to transfer after the Notre Dame game, while new backup freshman Rolandan Finch was limited in the second half of the season (134 yards) as he was battling mono. Finally, unlike Oregon’s Jeremiah Masoli and Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Shinskie is not going to beat you with his legs. Shinskie rarely tucks the ball and runs with it. So if the Eagles are going to have any success moving the ball, they will have to rely heavily on Montel Harris.
The matchup I’m most concerned about is the matchup between Dave Shinskie and the Eagles receivers vs. the Trojans pass defense. While Shinskie might be 25, he is still a freshman and may have actually regressed in the second half of the season (1 TD, 4 INTs at home vs. North Carolina). Shinskie did show signs of being a competent game manager in the season-finale win over Maryland, but this matchup still gives me pause. While the USC secondary didn’t have as good a season statistically as they did a year ago, there is still plenty of talent – led by senior Taylor Mays – to quickly capitalize on Shinskie’s mistakes.
5.) So, what is your prediction for this one?
Brian: BC certainly didn't light up the scoreboard in their final three games, only managing a little over 15 points per game against Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. I have a feeling this game will be a sloppy one with both quarterbacks making a few mistakes, which will keep this game in the teens or twenties. I'm hoping the Trojans can't overcome the losses of McCoy, Smith and possibly McKnight ... and the Eagles win 21-17. If McKnight plays though, I'll predict a 'SC 21-17 victory. Either way, I think it will be closer than the 9 points the Eagles are getting.
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Good Luck On Saturday!!