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Emerald Bowl preview

The Eagles (8-4) are making their 11th straight appearance in a bowl game and exceeded almost everyone’s expectations under first-year coach Frank Spaziani, as BC was picked by the media to finish last in the Atlantic Division. BC owned the nation’s longest winning streak in bowl games (eight games) until it lost in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl last year against Vanderbilt, 16-14. The Eagles are the first team in Emerald Bowl history to play in the game twice. They beat Colorado State 35-21 in 2003 in what was then called the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.

Here’s a quick scouting report on Saturday’s game:

WHO TO WATCH: BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. He was named the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and is averaging 11.83 total tackles per game. That’s the highest average by any rookie since the NCAA began tracking tackles in 2003. In all, Kuechly has made 10 or more tackles in eight straight games. He leads the ACC in tackles per game and is second nationally to New Mexico linebacker Carmen Messina (13.50).

WHAT TO WATCH: The turnover battle. If BC is going to win, this is where it has to be done. And it can be done. The Eagles didn’t turn it over once in their season finale win at Maryland. The week before, though, BC turned it over six times in a loss to UNC -- five interceptions and one fumble. It will help if the Eagles’ offensive line can give quarterback Dave Shinskie time to make smart decisions and develop a running game to keep him out of third and long situations.

WHY TO WATCH: USC is vulnerable.

If BC is going to upstage this storied program, now is the time to do it. The Trojans have three players suspended, and ended the season losing three of their last five games for a fifth-place finish in the Pac-10. Boston College can pull off the win by playing smart, disciplined, well-coached football. Besides, this team has made a habit of proving its doubters wrong. Why stop now?

PREDICTION: Like Spaziani said, “USC is still USC.” The Trojans will have a different caliber of athlete and BC’s blue-collar work ethic won’t be enough to overcome it. BC will play well enough in the first half to keep the TVs on, but USC will eventually pull away later in the game by forcing Shinskie into some mistakes. Trojans win, 31-24.