The View From Los Angeles

For most BC fans, playing USC in the Emerald Bowl is the best post-season news in many years. Not since BC played Georgia in the Music City Bowl have we seen the Eagle face off against a marquee opponent in the post-season. Getting the Trojans the day after Christmas is as good as it gets, outside of a BCS bid.

Kevin Cardin is the publisher of and has been covering the USC Trojans for a long time. For the benefit of BC fans, we thought it was a good time to get some perspective on BC's next opponent from someone covering the team every day. What follows are some answers to wide ranging questions about the 2009 Trojans and what BC can expect from them in three weeks. Q: From a USC perspective, this is a down year. Can you give us an overview of the season and why this team has not dominated the league as usual? It has definitely been viewed as a down year, and that is the case when you have been to seven straight BCS bowls under Pete Carroll. The season has had some high moments like the road wins at Ohio State and Notre Dame, but the blowout losses to Oregon and Stanford have really been troubling. Carroll's teams have lost in the past but never in the fashion that they have this season.

The reason for the losses has to do with a number of things: Improved Pac-10, coaching shuffle, freshman quarterback, inexperienced defense and some questionable coaching decisions.

Looking back, the issue that concerns USC fans more than anything is the lack of improvement and development throughout the course of the season.

Q: Who are the key players on both sides of the ball? On offense, Damian Williams has been the most consistent player and is a terrific wide receiver. The 6-1, 195-pound junior has been Matt Barkley's favorite target, pulling in 58 catches for 821 yards and six touchdowns and has made several big plays in clutch situations. Joe McKnight is the Trojans' leading rusher and will likely get the bulk of the carries in the Emerald Bowl. McKnight is known for his elusiveness in the open field but he has improved his running between the tackles this season. McKnight has rushed for 1,014 yards and 8 touchdowns, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Of course, freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, who has had a mixed year (13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), has been the focal point. Tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili will also be featured prominently in the game plan.

On defense, Jurrell Casey and Everson Griffen are the top defensive linemen. Casey is a stout defensive tackle that has had a very good year and Griffen is a speed rusher off the edge that can cause headaches with his quickness. Taylor Mays is the player that gets plenty of attention at safety and is one of the most athletic players in all of college football. Malcolm Smith and Chris Galippo are the key players for an inexperienced linebacker corps that is trying to replace some very talented players.

Q: Like all freshman, Matt Barkley has had his ups and downs. How would you grade his season and where is he now after a full year as a starter? Barkley has shown great potential at times, but like all first-year players he has also struggled and finished the season with just 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He outplayed Jimmy Clausen in USC's win over Notre Dame and certainly has all the tools to be a tremendous quarterback in the future but hasn't played that well down the stretch.

At this point, he looks to be a bit unsure of himself and thinking a little too much during games.

Q: BC fans remember Pete Carroll as head coach of the Patriots. How does the USC fan base view him as a coach? Pete Carroll has done a pretty amazing job at USC, leading the Trojans to seven straight Pac-10 titles and seven straight BCS bowls before this season. He is also regarded as the top recruiter in the country, so most USC fans hold him in very high regard.

This season, there has been much more questioning of Carroll on the message boards and in the newspapers than in the past. Carroll has opened himself up to criticism with some of his coaching and personnel decisions this season. With that said, most other programs in the country would be thrilled to get eight wins in a "rebuilding year," but Carroll has had so much success that the fans get restless with four losses.

Q: For a program used to playing in BCS games, what will be the response from USC fans about playing BC in the Emerald Bowl? Like you said, USC fans have become accustomed to going to BCS bowls every year, and were looking at the Holiday Bowl if the Trojans won the regular season finale, so the Emerald Bowl is definitely a disappointment. I think as the game gets closer they will get more excited about getting to matchup against a quality ACC team like Boston College.

Q: USC is known for having great defenses. Can you talk a little about this year's defense and maybe why they have struggled at times? It has been a variety of factors that have contributed to the subpar performance of the defense in '09, including inexperience and injuries.

You have to look at all the tremendous players that graduated and are already making major contributions in the NFL like: Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga, Kaluka Maiva and Kevin Ellison. The linebackers are inexperienced and undersized and have been a weakness this season. The defensive line is very talented, but young, and really struggled in the losses to Oregon and Stanford. The secondary that was supposed to be the strength of the team with four senior starters but has also struggled.

Unlike teams in the past, this group has gotten pushed around at times.

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