USC ready for Bay Area’s bowl

Even though his team has made an annual habit of playing in high-profile BCS bowl games this decade, USC coach Pete Carroll pays no credence to the idea that his players won’t be motivated to face Boston College in this year’s Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park.

“People have been asking me the past couple of years if we we’re disappointed to play in the Rose Bowl, and I never understood that,” Carroll said at a media briefing in The City on Thursday. “Our players like to work out, they love to play games. I can guarantee you that they’re going to play this game like it’s the national championship game.”

While Carroll will likely have to spend the next few weeks convincing the public that his team will be focused for the Dec. 26 matchup, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani might have to assure everyone that his team won’t be awestruck when they square off against the mighty Trojans.

Picked in the preseason to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division, the Eagles (8-4) had to overcome the controversial firing of coach Jeff Jagodzinski (who was axed before BC’s bowl game last season for entertaining NFL offers), losing star linebacker Mark Herzlich for the year to cancer (the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year has vowed to return next season) and the departure of a slew of veteran contributors.

“We had our goals coming into the season, and one of those was to be in a bowl game, so we’re happy,” Spaziani said. “And I’m sure playing USC will grab our players’ attention.”

Led by ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly, Boston College closed the season out with victories in three out of its last four games to head into its 11th straight bowl appearance with some momentum.

Conversely, Carroll’s Trojans (8-4) limped to the finish line, losing two out of their last three games as freshman quarterback Matt Barkley struggled to lead a consistent offensive attack.

Carroll said that his team, so accustomed to plugging in one lost superstar with another, has been frustrated by the relative lack of success this season, but they’re nevertheless ready to end the year on a positive note.

“We have tremendous respect for what this bowl means for our team and for our conference,” Carroll said. “We have every intention of putting on a great show in San Francisco.”

Boston College (8-4) vs. USC (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 26, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: AT&T Park
TV: ESPN

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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