The last time USC played Boston College was in the 2009 Emerald Bowl, Pete Carroll’s final game as head coach of the Trojans and the last bowl game before a two-year ban started the following season. When the Eagles come calling to the Coliseum this year in Week 3, they’ll meet a squad in the thick of sanctions and face an entirely new regime.
The September 14th matchup will air on the Pac-12 Network, and it’ll be BC’s first trip to Los Angeles since 1987, when the Trojans beat them 23-17. We continue our week-by-week preview of the 2013 USC football schedule, as we take a glance at the Eagles.
Eagles by the numbers:
2012 Record: 2-10 (1-7, 6th in ACC Atlantic)
16 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams
Key Returners: QB Chase Rettig, WR Alex Amidon, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto
Key Losses: LB Nick Clancy, OT Emmett Cleary, OT John Wetzel
Player to watch: WR Alex Amidon
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and De’Andre Hopkins easily take the cake as the class of ACC wideouts, but don’t discredit BC receiver Alex Amidon. The 5-foot-11 slot receiver was second in the ACC in receiving yards behind Hopkins last year, and set school records for receptions in a season with 78, and yardage in a season, with 1,210 receiving yards to his name. Amidon currently sits at 11th on the all-time receptions list at Boston College with 124, and he needs just 67 catches and 492 yards to break school records for career receptions and yardage.
BC’s 2013 outlook
BC returns a solid amount of starters on both sides of the ball and is a team with a slew of seniors, particularly at the skill positions on offense. Starting quarterback and San Clemente native Chase Rettig returns for his senior season, while the aforementioned All-ACC wide receiver Alex Amidon is back as his favorite target in the passing game.
Rettig threw for over 3,000 yards as a junior and despite having the talent to be a respectable AQ-school starting quarterback, he struggled with inconsistency and is still a work in progress. In a loss to Miami in the 2012 season opener, Rettig had the finest game of his career, throwing for 441 yards and completing 63 percent of his passes. But he faltered late in the season, culminating with a bottoming out against NC State last November, in which he was just 16 for 43 for 123 yards, while throwing three interceptions. While his 115.57 passer rating was a career high last season, it ranked second to last among stat-eligible ACC quarterbacks.
In the backfield, leading rusher Andre Williams returns. He started eight games last season before being sidelined in November with an abdominal injury.
But despite the Eagles returning exactly 100 percent of their rushing yards from last season and 88.8 percent of their receiving yards, there’s significant holes up front on the offensive line. The recently-graduated tackle duo of Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel combined to start all 12 games last season, which forces head coach Steve Addazio to rely on tackles without any starting experience in 2013.
Protecting Rettig is of the utmost importance for the Eagles, though it’ll be interesting to see how the offensive focus changes from last year to this year. New offensive coordinator Ryan Day came to BC along with Addazio from Temple and brings with him a very run-first offense. Last season, Temple threw the ball just 32 percent of the time and averaged over 200 rushing yards per game.
Under then-offensive coordinator Doug Martin, Boston College ran 22 more passing plays per game than Day’s Temple offense in 2012, catering to the strength of talent at quarterback and receiver. With a weak offensive line and the conference’s best possession receiver, Day will likely have to rely on the pass more than he would have at Temple.
Defensively, the Eagles bring back two of their top defenders, in linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto. But the loss of top tackler and All-ACC first teamer Nick Clancy puts BC behind the eight ball when considering their struggles on the defensive line. As a stout middle linebacker, Clancy was routinely in position to clean up for mishaps up front, something that BC will need to find a fix for this season.
Last year, among 124 FBS teams, Boston College was dead last in sacks, totaling just six. For comparison’s sake, USC bested that number against Cal alone.
Injuries were an issue for the BC defensive line in 2012, with starting defensive end Kasim Edebali dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that forced him to miss the Clemson game, and depth running thin with injuries to rotation mainstays Brian Mihalik, Dominic Appiah and Dillon Quinn.
As a whole, Boston College has both seniority and experience on their side, in addition to talent at a handful of skill positions. The groundwork is there for the Eagles to improve on their 2-10 performance from 2012, but they’re going to need to find an identity on both sides of the ball.
BC opens with two should-win home games against Villanova and Wake Forest, before a crucial six-game stretch that begins with back-to-back games against USC and Florida State and includes a trip to Death Valley to face Clemson.
Early Prediction: USC 55, Boston College 7
While the Eagles will enter the Coliseum with plenty of experience and won’t be intimated by the grandeur of the venue, they’ll face a USC team that matches up perfectly with them. The Trojans have one of the nation’s best pass rushes and a defensive line that should be tops in the Pac-12, which doesn’t bode well for a BC offensive line in the midst of a major rebuild.
Expect both Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard to have big days against the inexperience of Boston College’s tackles, which should force Rettig into tough spots. Rettig is prone to his fair share of mistakes, as only Logan Thomas and Mike Glennon threw more interceptions in the ACC last year.
On the other side of the ball, with the lack of a pass rush, USC should be able to get the passing game going against a defense that was 77th in the nation against the pass last season. At the end of the day, as seen in 2011, the Trojans offense will click into gear in Week 3 against a good matchup, carrying USC to what should be a sound win.