Boston College coach Frank Spaziani just finished his first season as a head coach, but he’s been around long enough to know what the Eagles are up against at 8 p.m. on Saturday when they face USC in the Emerald Bowl.
“In 2006, they had the No. 1 recruiting class in America,” Spaziani said. “In 2007, they had the No. 2 recruiting class in America. In 2008 they had the No. 8 recruiting class in America. USC is USC.”
Even though the Trojans -- just like BC -- finished 8-4 and out of the Associated Press Top 25.
“Seriously, we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Spaziani said. “This is a big-league football team with a big-league coach, rich in tradition. Just look what they’ve done over the last eight years, and you can see this is a step up for us. This will be a good test for us, for our guys, to see where we’ve progressed and where we’ve got to go. It’s energizing to say the least.”
Spaziani doesn’t have to line up against USC, though, to know his team is still a work in progress. One look at the Eagles’ 8-4 record shows a group of overachievers in Spaziani’s first season, as they were picked to finish last this year in the Atlantic Division. Despite their surprising success, Spaziani knows there are still underlying issues that must be addressed before the program is where he wants it to be. It’s mistakes like turnovers that USC will be looking to exploit.
“We were able to manage our way through this year, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Spaziani said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
It starts up front on both sides of the ball, which had previously been a strength for BC. Spaziani said the offensive line wasn’t as consistent as he would’ve liked it to be this year. Part of the problem has been a lack of depth, but the staff tried to address that in their first recruiting class.
“The offensive line had a long way to go and certainly they made progress,” Spaziani said. “We’ve made some mistakes. We haven’t made the same mistake twice, but we still have a long way to go to be a big-league offensive line, no doubt about it. … That’s a long-range issue.”
The Eagles enter the Emerald Bowl ranked No. 98 in total offense and No. 95 in passing offense. They have a minus-three turnover margin and have thrown 17 interceptions. They’re No. 99 in the country in sacks, compared to No. 26 in 2008.
Still, Spaziani said the Eagles improved from their first to last game this year.
“We made progress every week and we certainly couldn’t have had the success later on in the year if we played like we did early in the year,” he said. “We got better. And we learned, too. We were able to manage our way through it. We learned more about our players, and what we had to do, and what they were good at, what they weren’t good at it, what we were asking them to do, why we were asking them to do it. It was just a whole process. And we kept getting better for the most part -- as a team we did.”
How much better will be measured on Saturday.