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Joe Bo’s College Exam: Emerald Bowl preview

December 24, 2009

HOW WILL TROJANS PROTECT MATT BARKLEY SATURDAY NIGHT?

By Joe Bodolai

Will USC’s Matt Barkley be able to play safe? Or will Boston College be able to pressure USC’s freshman in the Emerald Bowl Saturday night now that the Trojans will be without three offensive starters? They’ve lost two stalwarts of the offensive line: tight end Anthony McCoy and tackle Tyron Smith for academic reasons. Barkley’s best protection, however, might have been their top running back Joe McKnight, also out of the lineup. McKnight’s 1,012 yard season and 6.2 yards per carry meant opposing defenses could little afford to tee off on the freshman quarterback as they had to try to stop the run. Despite the strong ground game, from midseason on, Barkley seemingly regressed and finished with a very non-Trojan quarterback mark of just 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Like his predecessor Reggie Bush, McKnight has found himself and the USC program in hot water yet again. This time it involves the USC junior driving around in a luxury Range Rover. The car was supposedly provided to McKnight’s baby mama by a “businessman” who can’t actually explain what business he’s in and McKnight’s fiancé is supposedly making the over $500 monthly payments – not the usual circumstances for a single mother still in college.

Boston College under new head coach Frank Spaziani also lost the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Mark Herzlich when he was diagnosed with cancer prior to the season. The Eagles rank 99th in sacks, so they’ll have to step up their attack against a depleted Trojan o-line and hopefully pressure Barkley into making some of his beautifully bad decisions.

USC always stocks up on tailbacks though, so replacing McKnight will be Alan Bradford who racked up 596 yards on 98 carries, nearly the same average as McKnight. C.J. Gable, an almost forgotten man, will also see some action but has managed only 93 yards this season.

This season has seen USC nosedive out of a BCS bowl for the first time in seven years and finished a dismal sixth in the PAC-10 and national schadenfreude (Bing it kids) is at an eight-year high.

Boston College, meanwhile, is 8-1 in bowl games since the year 2000. I, along with many USC haters everywhere, would love to see the Trojans make some costly mistakes and somehow find a way to discover the heartbreaking agony they deserve. They’ll either be demoralized from their dismal season or else pumped up to go out on a mediocre note.

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