The Continental Tire Bowl will provide a glimpse into the future for 25th ranked Boston College (8-3, 4-2 Big East), which will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005. The Eagles will be playing in a school-record sixth straight bowl game, and have won their last four.
Boston College finished in a four-way tie for first place in what will be its last year in the Big East Conference.
The Eagles and Tar Heels have faced each other twice, and both were blowouts. In 1981, No. 9 UNC won 56-14, en route to a 6-0 start. But BC returned the favor in 1984 with a 52-20 thrashing of Carolina in Foxboro, Mass.
Head coach Tom O'Brien (56-39), in his eighth year, is only the third coach in BC history to win more than 55 games and the first coach to win eight or more games in four consecutive seasons. Prior to taking the job, he was Virginia's offensive coordinator from 1994-1996.
Paul Peterson (#18, 6-0, 190, Sr.), sidelined for more than three weeks with an injury to his right hand, received clearance from his doctor last Monday to begin throwing again. Peterson is 11-2 as a starter, after becoming the first BC quarterback to ever start 6-0 at the helm. He had a career-best 383-yard passing performance in the Eagles' 24-23 win over then-24th ranked Notre Dame. After his injury, Matthew Ryan (#12, 6-5, 221, Fr.*) got the starting nod in the second half versus Temple. He performed admirably in the regular-season ending loss to Syracuse, which terminated his team's BCS bowl hopes. In what was his first collegiate start, Ryan completed 24 of 51 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Peterson and Ryan are separated by an "OR" on the bowl game depth chart, though O'Brien has indicated that Peterson will get the starting nod.
After recovering from an early season injury, L.V. Whitworth
(#30, 6-0, 215, Fr.*) has now started in five straight games. He turned in a career-best performance (17 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns) against the Owls. In eight games, Whitworth has rushed for a team-high 620 yards and four touchdowns. The Eagles also employ youth at the backup positions in Andre Callender
(#32, 5-11, 199, Fr.*), who amassed 489 yards in eight contests; and A.J. Brooks
(#28, 6-0, 190, Fr.), who has three rushing touchdowns on the year. The starter at fullback is Everett Lee
(#39, 5-11, 228, Sr.), a former walk-on, had five catches for 42 yards in the win over then-No. 10 West Virginia.
The Eagles' leading receiver is Grant Adams
(#5, 6-1, 201, Sr.), who has caught a pass in his last 29 games. He has 47 receptions for 692 yards and two touchdowns. Joel Hazard
(#17, 5-10, 184, Sr.) has scored five times. Tony Gonzalez
(#26, 5-11, 190, So.) and Jason Lilly
(#82, 6-3, 184, So.), who both moved up behind returning starters Adams and Hazard on the depth chart after impressing O'Brien in the spring, have combined for 21 catches and 266 yards.
After enjoying a breakout season as a sophomore, David Kashetta (#86, 6-4, 251, Sr.) took over for two-year starter Sean Ryan this season. But Chris Miller (#88, 6-5, 258, Jr.) has also stormed onto the scene and actually has more receiving yards than Kashetta. The two have combined for 394 yards and five touchdowns receiving.
Traditionally a strength, the offensive line was a area of major concern entering the season after losing two all-conference performers and one 13-game starter to graduation last year.
The good news was that veteran tackle Jeremy Trueblood (#72, 6-9, 330, Jr.) and center Patrick Ross (#66, 6-4, 295, Jr.) returned to add experience and stability to an otherwise young group. Guards James Marten (#70, 6-8, 313, So.) and Josh Beekman (#75, 6-2, 320, So.) nailed down the starting spots after playing sparingly as freshmen. Tackle Gosder Cherilus (#77, 6-7, 310, Fr.*) is also young, but has the size to be an impact player one day.
The strength of BC's defensive line is at its end positions. Big East Defensive Player of the Year Mathias Kiwanuka
(#94, 6-7, 261, Jr.) led the league with 10 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He spearheads a defense that helped the Eagles allow just 16.3 points per game. Phil Mettling
(#93, 6-3, 270, Sr.), a three-year starter, tallied three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. Tackles' Alvin Washington
(#56, 6-1, 280, Jr.) and Tim Bulman
(#96, 6-4, 287, Sr.) combined on 66 tackles, with Bulman accounting for four sacks and 15.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Big East Rookie of the Year Brian Toal (#16, 6-1, 223, Fr.) made a huge impact in his first season, starting the final seven games and finishing second on the team in tackles with 70. In the middle Ray Henderson (#3, 6-3, 227, Jr.) has an amazing six interceptions. The converted running back is now a two-year starter on defense.
(#55, 6-2, 228, Jr.) made the most of his first year as a starter, leading the team in tackles with 76. In fact, Brown, Toal and Henderson are 1-2-3 atop the defensive stat sheet, with a combined 215 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six interceptions, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
For the second year in a row, cornerback Will Blackmon
(#1, 6-0, 202, Jr.) was an All-Big East second team selection, picking off three passes and recording two pass breakups. The other corner, Peter Shean
(#19, 5-9, 182, Sr.), appears to have fully recovered from a knee injury that has slowed him over the past three years. Strong safety Ryan Glasper
(#24, 6-0, 205, So.) has two interceptions and two pass breakups to go with 52 tackles. Free safety T.J. Stancil
(#23, 6-2, 215, Sr.), who had three picks in last year's San Francisco Bowl, is the team's fourth-leading tackler and has one interception.
Both kicker Ryan Ohliger (#37, 5-9, 195, Fr.) and punter Johnny Ayers (#46, 5-11, 179, Fr.) were thrown into the fire as true freshmen this season and have performed well. Ohliger made 13 of his 18 field goal attempts (28-for-30 PATs), including four of five from beyond 40 yards. Ayers is averaging 39.5 yards per punt, sticking 20 inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Blackmon scored a touchdown both on a punt return and a kick return, to go with 856 total return yards this season. But watch out for Dejuan Tribble (#27, 5-9, 187, Fr.*), who has returned two of six punts for touchdowns.
(Photos by the AP.)