Emerald Bowl

Emerald Bowl: Boston College (8-4) vs. USC (8-4)

Dec. 26, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

It’s going to be a daunting trip out west for the Eagles, who have struggled on the road against better competition all season, and make no mistake, there is more separation between these two programs right now than their 8-4 records indicate. BC’s offense is still a work in progress under quarterback Dave Shinskie, who has thrown 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this year, but USC has also had its growing pains under true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, who completed 184 of 315 attempts for 2,385 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The highlights for both offenses have been their running backs, as Joe McKnight led the Trojans in rushing with 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns on 164 carries. BC sophomore running back Montel Harris rushed for 1,355 yards and 13 scores.

The Eagles were picked by the media to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division, but rallied together in coach Frank Spaziani’s first season to extend their season with a bowl game for the 11th straight year. In contrast, USC fell far below its preseason expectations and out of the Associated Press top 25 rankings entirely after its loss to Arizona on Saturday. It was the first time in the program’s past 102 games it dropped out of the rankings.

Both teams have shown vulnerabilities this year, but for BC, it was expected. USC, on the other hand, was ranked No. 4 this preseason and enters the bowl game having lost three of its final five regular season games.