To preview this weekend's Emerald Bowl matchup between BC and USC, we play a game of Toss Up.
Toss Up - (Without Joe McKnight) Who has the better backfield, USC or BC?
Jeff: Without Joe McKnight, USC has 1,097 rushing yards on the season. That falls short of Montel Harris' stats alone and even though they supposedly have a "stable" of backs, that stable didn't get them to a very successful season by USC standards and McKnight got the bulk of the workload for a reason. I'll take the BC backfield with Harris, Anderson and McCluskey.
Brian: Aaron Bradford is no slouch filling in for a potentially ineligible Joe McKnight. Bradford has rushed for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Trojans last two games. C.J. Gable has been limited this season, having only rushed for 93 yards on 21 carries this season. As you said, both of these backs haven't come close to matching Montel Harris' stats this season. If Joe McKnight or Stafon Johnson are included in this toss up, you may very well have to go with 'SC. But without Johnson and McKnight, the edge in running games has to go to BC in this one on the strength of Montel Harris' complete body of work this season. BC.
Toss Up - Would you rather beat USC this year or the next time we play them in California?
Brian: This is a no-brainer. I’d want BC to beat ‘SC in the regular season. With all the controversy swirling around McKnight and Trojan players scratched due to academic ineligibility, the Eagles seem to be damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they win, everyone will say ‘SC didn’t want to be there. If they lose, well, they were supposed to lose. A win in the regular season would go much further towards propelling the Eagles into the Top 25 and getting BC some respect. At this point in the season, with Clemson falling out of the polls, I doubt that BC could even get back into the season-ending Top 25 with a win in the Emerald Bowl. BC will have much more to play for during the 2013 regular season against USC than they do in the Emerald Bowl.
Jeff: I agree with you here but not exactly with your argument. Aside from the BCS National Championship game, bowls are much more about where you play than whether or not you actually win the game. Much more time is spent talking about where teams are headed and the matchups than who wins the actual game in the end. When you win in the regular season, that win actually matters. Bowl games like this are often looked at as an early start on spring practice since most team's goals being with winning a conference and landing in the Emerald Bowl means that that goal was not accomplished. Hopefully in 2013 there will be much more at stake than just avoiding a fifth loss on the season.
Jeff: This game is much bigger for Matt Barkley than it is for Dave Shinskie. Matt Barkley was once the top recruit in the country. If he loses to Dave Shinskie who was playing baseball this time last year, the USC fans will be calling for a new quarterback all winter. If Shinskie loses, well that was expected. Shinskie will still be Boston College's starting quarterback next season regardless of how bad a performance he might have in a losing effort. I am not ruling out the possibility of Rettig getting snaps next year, but right now injury would be the only reason Shinskie is the opening day starter.
Brian: I'm going to go the other way here and go with Dave Shinskie. Shinskie has had some miserable performances away from the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium and he needs to prove to the coaching staff and the BC faithful that he can play well on the road. Shinskie has one final game with the senior receiving corps of Gunnell, Jarvis and Megwa. Next year, Shinskie will have to prove himself with a set of underclassmen receivers. Barkley, on the other hand, goes into this game without some of his most potent offensive weapons. Anthony McCoy won't be starting at tight end, and Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight won't be helping Barkley out in the backfield. If Barkley struggles, the USC coaching staff and the announcers will likely blame this on the absence of players like McCoy, Johnson and McKnight. Shinskie, on the other hand, has a trio of senior receivers to rely on. If Shinskie can't put together a half-decent game utilizing these offensive weapons, the pressure will be high on Spaziani and the coaching staff to go with Rettig, Bordner, Marscovetra or even Boek as the starter to open the 2010 season. This season has always been a bridge season for the BC QB situation, and a bad performance by Shinskie could easily open the door for another QB competition in the fall.
Toss Up - More likely to be preseason favorite to win their conference next season – BC or SC?
Brian: Again, this one is simple. ‘SC is more likely to be the preseason favorite to win their conference next season. It doesn’t matter how many starters Boston College is returning on either side of the ball (8), the star players that other Atlantic Division contenders lose (C.J. Spiller) or the number of injuries/excuses that NC State and Tom O’Brien have (numerous), BC will not be picked to win the ACC next season. If this question was whether BC would be selected to be the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Division, I would have to go with BC, but the Eagles won’t be selected to win the conference. All three Coastal contenders - Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech - will all be voted higher than BC in next season’s preseason. You have to think Clemson and Florida State will be ranked high preseason as well for all the talent that they return on defense (Clemson) and offense (Florida State).
Regarding the Trojans’ chances for being picked to win the Pac-10 next season, I think the only hurdle they have would be Oregon. Oregon will likely be the Pac-10 preseason favorite but there’s always the chance that USC gets by on name-brand alone and is picked over UO.
Jeff: BC has an opportunity to get the most impressive win of all ACC teams this bowl season. Meanwhile, a Rose Bowl victory by Oregon over Ohio State will go a long way for Oregon being the preseason favorite in the Pac-10. In the ACC, Miami could also help their cause with a dominant win over Wisconsin. Virginia Tech could similarly stake a claim to the preseason ACC crown with a dominant win over Tennessee. Clemson and Georgia Tech will be written off in the preseason because of the players they are losing to graduation. BC loses very little to graduation and gets Mark Herzlich back which might easily be overplayed by the media and since it's the media who determines these things. You are probably right that USC has a better chance of being a preseason conference champ favorite but it is a lot closer than you make it out to be.