Now that coach Tom O'Brien has decided to stay at Boston College rather than pursue the same post at Washington, the Eagles can focus on their bowl game. Boston College (8-3) will take on North Carolina (6-5) in the Continental Tire Bowl on Dec. 30.
"I think it's in my best interest to stay at Boston College," O'Brien told the Boston Globe. "To let (the decision-making process) go on any longer was not fair to my team and to this school. We're preparing for a bowl game and it wasn't fair to my team or the school to let this go on."
O'Brien has guided the Eagles to the postseason in six straight years. Boston College had a chance to win the Big East Conference outright and the automatic BCS bid for the first time, but dropped a 43-17 decision to Syracuse in its regular season finale. Boston College won a share of the league title, but Pittsburgh secured the BCS berth and will face Utah in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Eagles' success may rest with the health of quarterback Paul Peterson. The senior broke his right (throwing) hand against Temple on Nov. 20, but is expected to be available for the Continental Tire Bowl. In Peterson's absence, backup Matt Ryan completed 24 of 51 pass attempts for 200 yards and was intercepted three times against Syracuse. Peterson passed for 2,358 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: Led by DE Mathias Kiwanuka and CB Will Blackmon, Boston College's defense proved to be the best in the Big East. The Eagles surrendered a league-low 20 touchdowns and 16.3 points per game in the regular season. Kiwanuka, who led the conference with 10 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Whenever the Eagles abandon the ground game, negative results follow. Consider Boston College's 20-17 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 16. The Eagles managed 56 rushing and 367 passing yards. QB Paul Peterson is comfortable inside and outside the pocket, but Boston College's tailback trio -- L.V. Whitworth, Andre Callender and A.J. Brooks -- must step up.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Boston College 36, West Virginia 17 (Nov. 13) -- The Eagles vaulted into the BCS picture behind punt returns for touchdowns by DeJuan Tribble and Will Blackmon. Boston College would've locked up the automatic berth had it closed the season with victories over Temple and Syracuse. But the Orange stung the Eagles, 43-17, two weeks later.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Boston College CB Will Blackmon vs. North Carolina QB Darian Durant -- The 6-0, 198-pound Blackmon picked off three passes and managed 42 tackles during the regular season. He is widely considered the league's best cover corner. Durant passed for 1,979 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You're sitting there in a prospect's home, telling him all the good things, and the good things that are going to happen. You recruit yourself to make sure you're in the right spot for you. It's hard not to sit there and think, 'You know, I'm in a great situation.' " -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, in the Boston Globe, regarding the decision to either stay or pursue a job at Washington.
BOWL AT A GLANCE: Boston College (8-3) vs. North Carolina (6-5), Continental Tire Bowl, Charlotte, Dec. 30 -- Eagles get an early taste of what the ACC is all about.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Grant Adams -- The 6-1, 201-pound senior leads the Eagles with 47 receptions for 692 yards (14.7 per catch). Adams has also scored two touchdowns in 11 games.
LB Brian Toal -- The Big East Rookie of the Year started Boston College's final seven games and is second on the team with 70 tackles. Toal was only the second defensive player since 1994 to be receive the honor.
PRO POTENTIAL: DE Mathias Kiwanuka -- The Big East Defensive Player of the Year leads the conference with 10 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. The 6-7, 261-pound Kiwanuka spearheaded the Eagles' defense, which allows just 16.3 points per game.
ROSTER REPORT: QB Paul Peterson (broken hand) is expected to return for the Continental Tire Bowl.
Not only did the Huskies win three conference games as rookie Big East members this season, they also earned the program's first-ever bowl invitation. Connecticut (7-4) will face Toledo (9-3) in the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27.
Coach Randy Edsall's team entered the league a year ahead of schedule, which proved to be a prescient decision. Connecticut was able to take advantage of the Big East's weakened state and make history with the bowl berth.
"It feels good to be out here (practicing) from the standpoint that you know you're going to play for something," Edsall told the Hartford Courant. "Last year we came out and weren't sure what was going to happen. This year we're out here and we're practicing with a purpose because we're going to a bowl game."
The game's outcome may rest with the quarterbacks, who each played critical roles in the teams' success this season. Connecticut senior Dan Orlovsky passed for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career and is considered the program's cornerstone.
Toledo junior Bruce Gradkowski is as tough as they come. He dislocated his shoulder and broke bones in his right (throwing) hand during the Mid-American Conference championship game against Miami of Ohio ... yet he threw three second-half touchdowns to rally the Rockets from a 14-7 deficit. He recently had surgery on the injured hand, but is expected to play against Connecticut.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: As long as QB Dan Orlovsky is on the field, Connecticut has a chance in most games. The 6-5, 236-pound Orlovsky may be the Big East's top pocket passer. He threw for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season. WR Keron Henry (58 catches, 5 TDs) and TE Dan Murray (27 catches, 5 TDs) are Orlovsky's primary targets.
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The Huskies must cut down on turnovers if they are to push Toledo. Connecticut committed 23 turnovers, which tied for fifth place in the Big East. Though Orlovsky's numbers were prolific, he threw 14 interceptions in 416 attempts.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Connecticut 41, Rutgers 35 (Nov. 25) -- A Thanksgiving Day victory all but guaranteed the Huskies their first-ever bowl invitation. QB Dan Orlovsky passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns, while tailback Cornell Brockington added three scores.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Connecticut QB Dan Orlovsky vs. Toledo FS Patrick Body -- The 6-5, 236-pound Orlovsky completed 268 of 416 pass attempts for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in the regular season, second in the Big East behind Rutgers' Ryan Hart for passing yards per game (283.2). Body managed two interceptions and led Toledo with 95 tackles.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody recognizes the kind of season we've had. People know what we've done. There are not as many negatives that people can use against us. It's been a totally different experience going on the road recruiting. All that exposure is what you're looking for." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall to the Hartford Courant, regarding recruiting off a successful season.
BOWL AT A GLANCE: Connecticut (7-4) vs. Toledo (9-3), Motor City Bowl, Detroit, Dec. 27 -- Coach Randy Edsall has the UConn program on a solid enough foundation that bowl appearances could become a regular occurrence.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: TB Cornell Brockington -- The 6-0, 195-pound Brockington leads the Big East in rushing yards per game (104.2). He managed 1,146 total yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns.
CB Justin Perkins -- The All-Big East selection picked off four interceptions and delivered 11 pass breakups in the regular season. Perkins also managed 35 tackles.
PRO POTENTIAL: QB Dan Orlovsky -- The senior has the size and arm strength to merit a good look on the next level. Doesn't do much with his feet, either scrambling or on a rollout, but he gets rid of the ball fast to avoid taking more sacks.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Pittsburgh 16, West Virginia 13 (Nov. 25) -- The 97th installment of the "Backyard Brawl" had BCS implications. Had the Mountaineers managed a victory at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, it's safe to say they would be representing the Big East in the BCS rather than the Panthers.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: QB Alex Smith vs. the Panther secondary -- Smith had one of the best seasons of any quarterback -- throwing for 2,624 yards and 28 touchdowns. Smith loves to sling it around -- and also make things happen with his feet -- and unless Pittsburgh plays its best game, Walt Harris & Co. could have a problem.
ROSTER REPORT: DE Tyler King (broken leg) has not been cleared to practice, but may be available for the Motor City Bowl. TB Cornell Brockington (neck stinger), P Shane Hussar (hamstring) and CB Ernest Cole (shoulder) should be ready to play.
The Panthers are headed for a Fiesta Bowl date with Utah on Jan. 1 ... and coach Walt Harris is headed to Stanford to fill the job of fired coach Buddy Teevens.
"He's accepted and will be here tomorrow," Stanford spokesman Gary Migdol told the Associated Press on Sunday. "He's in Pittsburgh today."
Harris is expected to coach Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. He battled for a contract extension throughout the season, but never received one. Before the season, Pittsburgh administrators informed Harris that he needed to lead the Panthers to a BCS game to save his job, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. He hurdled the ultimatum, but still elected to walk.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, former Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie were all mentioned as candidates for the Pittsburgh job.
Pittsburgh (8-3) won six of its last seven games and beat South Florida, 43-14, on Dec. 4 to secure the Big East's automatic berth. The Panthers opened the season 2-2 and needed overtime to get past Division I-AA representative Furman. But as quarterback Tyler Palko progressed, so did the team. The junior southpaw has passed for 2,816 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was named to the All-Big East second team, along with wide receiver Greg Lee.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: QB Tyler Palko possesses the creativity and blue-collar work ethic to carry Pittsburgh. The junior has passed for 2,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 starts. And when Palko is forced from the pocket, he can still break down a defense with the shovel pass he calls "The Favre Flip."
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Pittsburgh's ground game has struggled throughout the season, ranking sixth in the Big East at 105.1 yards per game. If the Panthers are to run with the Utes, the backfield must deliver.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In my impression, he's done some really impressive things, and hopefully he can continue them at Stanford. I thought he was a coach's coach. The things he was able to accomplish at Pittsburgh speak for themselves." -- Stanford LB Jon Alston to the Associated Press on Walt Harris, who is leaving Pittsburgh to coach at Stanford.
BOWL AT A GLANCE: Pittsburgh (8-3) vs. Utah, Fiesta Bowl, Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 1 -- The Panthers are headed to their fifth straight bowl under Walt Harris, but haven't played on New Year's Day or later since 1983. Interesting matchup in that both teams' head coach took other jobs after the regular season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Palko -- The junior passed for a career-high 411 yards and five touchdowns in a Dec. 4 win over South Florida. He has grown rapidly week to week and has completed 208 of 369 attempts for 2,816 yards and 23 scores, with only seven interceptions.
PK Josh Cummings -- The All-Big East selection has connected on 18 of 25 field goals and ranks ninth nationally with 1.64 made per game.
PRO POTENTIAL: OT Rob Petitti -- The 6-6, 330-pound senior is widely considered Pittsburgh's top player. Because he is a lineman and the Panthers' run attack has left much to be desired this season, Petitti hasn't drawn much attention for postseason honors. But pro scouts are aware of his potential.
ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.
Not only did coach Paul Pasqualoni lead Syracuse to its first postseason appearance since 2001, but he also kept his players focused as speculation regarding his demise ran rampant.
Pasqualoni will return for his 15th campaign in 2005, even though he remained on the coaching hot seat for most of the season. The Orange finished 6-5 and will face Georgia Tech (6-5) in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 21.
"We're going to take this opportunity and run," Pasqualoni told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "We've made some strides, I think, in getting back some of the respect we've enjoyed over the years this season."
With Pasqualoni's job secure for the time being, concern now turns to the health of senior tailback Walter Reyes. Syracuse was able to upset Boston College on Nov. 27 without Reyes in the lineup but figures to be a much stronger team with him running the football. Backup running back Damien Rhodes started for Reyes against Boston College, but sustained a knee injury in the first quarter and couldn't return. Pasqualoni then turned to strong safety Diamond Ferri, who managed 141 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Orange, however, hope no further personnel miracles are needed as both Reyes and Rhodes should be available for the Champs Sports Bowl.
BEST ATTRIBUTE: Syracuse's ground attack has the potential to be one of the nation's best. TB Walter Reyes averaged 100 yards per game and managed seven touchdowns, while backup Damien Rhodes added 77.8 and 10 scores. The Orange rushing offense finished second in the Big East behind West Virginia in the regular season.
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Though Reyes and Rhodes have fueled Syracuse's offense, QB Perry Patterson has struggled at times. Patterson's 112.1 pass efficiency rating is last in the Big East. He threw for 1,632 yards and six touchdowns in 11 appearances.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Syracuse 38, Pittsburgh 31 (Nov. 6) -- The Orange needed two overtimes to beat the Big East's BCS representative in the Carrier Dome. TB Damien Rhodes accounted for all 25 yards on Syracuse's game-winning drive and capped it with a 2-yard touchdown. Rhodes delivered 103 yards on the ground, while fellow tailback Walter Reyes added 123.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: TB Walter Reyes vs. the Georgia Tech run defense -- Reyes is strong, tough and productive -- when healthy. He ran for 856 yards, but missed the final two games of the season. Head coach Paul Pasqualoni believes Reyes should be ready to play against Tech.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Don't think they're not affected by all the press and all the negativity that went on around here. With all that went on, they came to practice every day ready to practice and ready to beat their next opponent. They never packed it in." -- Syracuse receivers coach Dennis Goldman to the Post-Standard, regarding his players' businesslike outlook while Paul Pasqualoni was on the hot seat.
BOWL AT A GLANCE: Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech, Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, Dec. 21 -- Would be a nice launching pad into the 2005 season, which needs to be a big one for Orange coach Paul Pasqualoni.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: SS Diamond Ferri -- The senior turned in one the season's most impressive performances, while playing three positions. He rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns, returned an interception 44 yards for a score and made six tackles in a 43-17 win over Boston College on Nov. 27. He also returned punts.
QB Perry Patterson -- The sophomore has completed 147 of 255 passes for 1,632 yards and six touchdowns (against nine interceptions). Patterson is the question mark and must do a lot to prove he can lead this team into a high-intensity situation.
PRO POTENTIAL: TB Walter Reyes -- Syracuse's second-leading all-time rusher averaged 100.0 yards per game during the regular season. He delivered 856 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns.
ROSTER REPORT: TB Walter Reyes (shoulder) missed Syracuse's final two games, but figures to be ready for the Champs Sports Bowl. TB Damien Rhodes (knee) left the Boston College game (Nov. 27) in the first quarter and didn't return, but should also be available.
Big East Bowl Scouting Report
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