Technically, it’s the theory of “Any Given Sunday.” The theory states that on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team, and it’s generally used to talk about the NFL. Perhaps the best-known example of this theory occurred back on Feb. 3, 2008. The 18-0 New England Patriots rolled into Glendale, Arizona to take on the wild card New York Giants, favored by 12 points, an incredibly high line for the Super Bowl. Well, on that Sunday, the Giants took down the mighty Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady, an upset of biblical proportions.
On Saturday night, another David vs. Goliath matchup rolls into Alumni Stadium, as the No. 9 University of Southern California Trojans visit the Boston College Eagles in the second game of their home-and-home series. The Trojans are fresh off besting their Pac-12 rivals, the Stanford Cardinal, while the Eagles are stinging from losing their Friday night home opener to the Pittsburgh Panthers, a game in which seemingly everything went wrong for the hosts.
The Eagles are not backing down from a challenge, however—BC defensive back and captain Dominique Williams said the team sees this as a chance to show it’s better than what fans saw on Friday night. “It’s a great opportunity to show that this defense is ready to bounce back,” Williams said. “They’ll have our greatest performance.”
In order to prove that, however, the Eagles will need to improve on both sides of the ball to compete with a talented USC team. Offensively, 28 yards rushing combined from starting running backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse will almost certainly spell doom going against a team that allowed just 128 yards rushing to Stanford, the team many consider to be the premier power-running team in the nation. If quarterback Tyler Murphy throws two interceptions while going 10-28 for 134 yards, that will also likely spell doom for the Eagles. BC must be much more efficient with the offensive chances that it gets, and it needs to take care of the ball.
USC’s offense gained 291 yards against the Cardinal, 91 of which came via wide receiver Nelson Agholor. In BC’s matchup last year, it was Marquise Lee who gained 90 yards, but Agholor was the more consistent threat, as 80 of Lee’s yards came on a single touchdown while Agholor gained 55 yards on four catches, an average of 13.8 yards per catch. “He’s got great speed, especially in the open field,” Williams said. “[I’ve] watched a lot of film on him so far, and it’s just another great opportunity to showcase what this defense is about.”
The Eagles cannot just use a prevent defense to contain Agholor, however. Trojans starting running back Javorius Allen poses a huge threat for the Eagles on the ground as well. BC will need some big performances out of its experienced defenders to keep USC’s offense under wraps. Mehdi Abdesmad and Brian Mihalik will need to put pressure on Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler, while Josh Keyes and Steven Daniels will be called upon to keep USC from ripping off large chunks of yards on the ground. The secondary will be put to the test and has to stop the big plays, but the experienced group consists of Williams, Bryce Jones, Manny Asprilla, and Justin Simmons, none of whom will be overwhelmed by the bright lights on Saturday night.
Oftentimes in these matchups, it’s difficult to tell which team is under more pressure—after all, being a heavy favorite can be mentally exhausting, but for the underdog, the need to have a near-perfect performance to stay close is just as weighty. The Eagles will need much-improved play from all facets of their team to give themselves a chance against the Trojans. The offensive line will need to open up running lanes that weren’t there against the Panthers, and Murphy will need to eliminate or limit his mistakes. The defensive line will need to create havoc on Trojans QB Cody Kessler, the linebackers may need to adjust to life without captain Sean Duggan, and the defensive backs will need to contain the deep ball. Special teams will need to execute to the point where head coach Steve Addazio can trust them on more than just chip-shot field goals. There was a sense of urgency in the air at Tuesday’s practice, but Williams believes the Eagles just need to execute on both sides of the ball, especially on defense.
Historically, it’s the theory of “Any Given Sunday.” But this Saturday night, when David comes out of that tunnel, slingshot in hand and facing Goliath, he’ll be hoping that the theory translates over to Saturday nights too.
Featured Image by Mark J. Terrill / AP Photo