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Champs Sports Bowl

Champs Sports Bowl

2007 Champs Sports Bowl Preview
by Robert Ferringo

Boston College (10-3) vs. Michigan State (7-5)

Conference Matchup: ACC vs. Big Ten
Date: 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 28
Location: Orlando, Florida
Spread: Boston College -3.5

Motivation and disappointment.

Those two issues are the Great Unknown when it comes to college bowl game handicapping and are really the key to determining which teams are going to pay out during the holiday run. They are intangibles and are open merely to speculation on the part of anyone without inside access to the team.

The Champs Sports Bowl pits two teams, Boston College and Michigan State, at the opposite end of the Motivation and Disappointment Spectrum against one another. Basically, one of these teams got a Lexus for Christmas while the other walked in on their wife cheating on them with their best friend, arms bound to the bedpost with dad's holiday necktie.

At one point last month the Eagles were No. 2 in the county and in control of their BCS destiny. Three losses later they're relegated to the Champs Bowl, a pre-New Year's bash where you have to BYOB. They blew a late lead against Virginia Tech in the ACC Title game, allowing the Hokies to move on to the BCS bowl. Adding salt into the wound is that Boston College was passed over for more prestigious bowls by two teams it finished higher in the standings than.

Conversely, Michigan State is ecstatic to be matched up against another nationally renowned program from a major conference. They won their last two games as underdogs at Purdue and at home against Penn State to become bowl eligible and are basically playing with House Money at this point.

There is no question that Boston College is the better team here. But the singular question surrounding this game is in regards to how much energy, enthusiasm, and motivation the Eagles come out with in this one. Michigan State is a team that scores a lot and allows a lot of points. They've become a trendy upset pick but I think that's less up to the Spartans than it is up to the Eagles.

Boston College can cover if: If the Eagles can avoid the letdown of missing out on a BCS Bowl game then I think their superior talent and experience should carry them to a relatively easy win here. They have the best player on the field (Ryan) and they match up perfectly with what the Spartans can and can't do.

Boston College's seniors are the winningest class in school history at 38-12, and the program has the longest current bowl-winning streak (seven) in the country. Certainly they're upset over missing out on a BCS game but once the pads start popping all that goes out the window. B.C. is 6-1 ATS in their last seven bowl games and 22-10 ATS after a loss. They've been a money bet this time of year and new coach Jeff Jagodzinski will want to pick up where his predecessor left off.

Michigan State can cover if: If the Eagles don't come to play then the Spartans can hang some big numbers on the scoreboard. A turnover here or there and all of a sudden the Spartans are up a couple scores and the disappointed Eagles mail it in.

Michigan State is 5-1 ATS as an underdog. And much like Jagodzinski, first-year head coach Mark Dantonio is really motivated to get a statement win for the fan base in his first bowl game with the Spartans.

Notes: Michigan State is 7-19 ATS in its last 26 games on grass and 7-16 ATS in its last 23 nonconference games. … Boston College is 15-6 ATS against a team with a winning record. … The Eagles own the No. 1 rush defense in the country, allowing 68.1 yards per game and 2.23 yards per rush. Their opponent, Javon Ringer, ranks 21st nationally with 112.7 rush yards per game.

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Champs Sports Bowl preview: Boston College vs. Michigan State

Champs Sports Bowl
Teams: Boston College (10-3) versus Michigan State (7-5)
Date: Friday, Dec. 28, 5 p.m. ET
Location: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Line: Boston College -3, 56 ½ O/U

The Boston College Eagles and the Michigan State Spartans meet in Orlando’s Champs Sports Bowl, a pair of programs that improved under first-year head coaches this season.

Boston College’s rise to claim the ACC Atlantic title under new man Jeff Jagodzinski may have been the bigger surprise. The Eagles lost former coach Tom O’Brien to division rival North Carolina State. O’Brien led BC for 10 seasons and a seven-game winning run in bowl games, the nation’s longest current streak.

Jagodzinski’s first college head coaching job was made easier by the presence of upperclassmen throughout the Eagles’ lineup. None was more important than senior quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan came out gunning, leading the Eagles to an 8-0 start. He led an amazing comeback win in the dying minutes at Virginia Tech at the end of October that served two purposes: it placed Boston College No. 2 in the national rankings and made Ryan the favorite for the Heisman Trophy at the time.

Eagles-fever died down in November and December, when Ryan threw more interceptions than touchdown passes and BC slumped to a 2-3 finish. The Eagles had a shot at an Orange Bowl berth but lost their rematch with the Hokies in the ACC Championship game.

The Eagles’ anticlimactic conclusion to the season doesn’t diminish how threatening they are to opposing teams.

The team’s offensive numbers are pass-heavy. That’s a natural reaction to having an NFL-ready quarterback running the show behind an experienced line that excels in pass protection. Boston College’s senior backfield duo can make plays when needed. Andre Callender caught the game-winning touchdown pass against the Hokies, one of 72 catches he made on the year out of the backfield. Callender also ran for nearly 1,000 yards.

One of the only offensive glitches for the Eagles is former walk-on kicker Steve Aponavicius, who hit only 65 percent of his field goal attempts and missed four extra points this season.

Defensively, the Eagles could use the healthy return of shutdown cornerback DeJuan Tribble. However they excelled all year at stuffing the run. Boston College was the top school in the nation against the ground game, allowing opponents only 68 rushing yards per game.

There lies the battle for the Spartans, who come to Orlando boasting one of the country’s top ground attacks. Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick were a nightmare lightning-and-thunder duo for opponents this year, combining for 2,159 yards and 27 touchdowns, all rushing.

MSU’s new head coach Mark Dantonio rode Ringer and Caulcrick to an early-season winning record, something Dantonio’s predecessor, John L. Smith, had no problem doing. The Spartans overcame their reputation for late-season collapses by shifting focus away from the run. They recognized that receiver Devin Thomas is as dangerous a player as you’ll find in the Big Ten.

The Spartans delivered a pair of upset wins to close the season 7-5 as quarterback Brian Hoyer looked Thomas’ way early and often. Thomas, who doubles as a kickoff return threat, caught 17 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns in the final two wins.

Michigan State will need all the offensive balance it can muster to keep up with Boston College. The Spartans’ defense rarely slowed down its conference opponents, allowing 33 points per game in Big Ten action.

One shining star on the MSU defense was Jonal Saint-Dic, a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award as the nation’s top defensive end. Saint-Dic was a disruptive force in opposing backfields, recording 10 quarterback sacks and setting a Big Ten single-season record by forcing eight fumbles.

Saint-Dic and fellow end Ervin Baldwin may, in fact, be the keys to the Champs Sports Bowl. If they can find ways to hassle Ryan, the Spartans could surprise. If Ryan has time to set up and throw downfield, however, the Eagles could recapture their early-season winning ways.

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Michigan State lineman Saint-Dic, 4 others ineligible for Champs Sports Bowl

EAST LANSING — Michigan State senior defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic is academically ineligible for Friday’s Champs Sports Bowl against Boston College, Saint-Dic confirmed to the Lansing State Journal on Monday.

Saint-Dic is one of five Spartans who have been ruled out of the game. Senior receiver Terry Love, sophomore receiver T.J. Williams and freshman offensive guard Abre Leggins also are academically ineligible, MSU said in a release.

Senior linebacker SirDarean Adams won’t play after violating team rules.

“We’re obviously disappointed for these young men and for their teammates,” MSU first-year coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. “We will miss them and their contributions on and off the field. … We have stressed the importance of finishing things all season, both in the classroom and on the playing field. It’s unfortunate to find these student-athletes in this situation, but it serves as a lesson to all of us.

“Michigan State provides its student-athletes with a tremendous amount of resources and tools for academic success. Each individual must be committed to putting forth the time and effort in the classroom, resulting in a reasonable amount of success.”

Saint-Dic told the State Journal he failed a math class — the final class he needed to graduate with a degree in sociology — which left him shy of the credits he needs to be eligible to play.

“I only took two classes this semester, a sociology class for three credits and a math class for five credits,” Saint-Dic said by phone from his hometown of Elizabeth, N.J. “I need six (passing) credits to play in the bowl game, so if I would have taken more classes I would have been fine. But I came up two points short in the math class.

“Everybody has their subjects, and I haven’t taken math in five years. I studied and studied, but I came up short. It’s a shocker. This is something I’m gonna learn from, I’m not gonna let it put me down. I’m praying for my teammates and I’m gonna get my degree (in the spring), and then I’m going for my master’s degree.”

Saint-Dic will not be in Orlando, Fla., for the game. His loss is the most substantial one for MSU. Saint-Dic earned second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors this season, after setting a Big Ten single-season record with eight forced fumbles and leading the Spartans with 10 sacks.

His pass rush was seen as a key for the Spartans (7-5) against No. 14 Boston College (10-3) and its All-American quarterback, Matt Ryan.

Adams also is a starter, while Love returns punts and Williams has seen action as a cornerback this season. Adams, Williams and cornerback Jeremy Ware also are facing charges of unarmed robbery, stemming from an April incident in Meridian Township, but that is unrelated to this situation.

They have pre-trial hearings scheduled for January.

“The disciplinary situation involving SirDarean Adams provides a learning opportunity for all us,” Dantonio said in the statement. “We continually stress to our student-athletes the importance of making good decisions, both on and off the field. It is unfortunate that we all must suffer the consequences.

“This provides playing opportunities for others. We’ve been please with the way our team has responded to challenges throughout this season, and we will again need to measure up.”

Junior Brandon Long likely will start for Saint-Dic, while senior Rob Tabatchnick is the most likely replacement for Adams. Dantonio said Monday that junior receiver Devin Thomas will get a chance to return punts.

Saint-Dic, who moved with his family to the United States from Haiti at age 5, transferred to MSU from Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Community College in 2005. He redshirted with a groin injury that season, then played sparingly in 2006.

He was one of the biggest surprises and reasons for a turnaround 2007 season under Dantonio.

Saint-Dic hopes to play in the NFL. After he decides on an agent, he plans to work out this spring at an undetermined location, while retaking the math class online.

He walked during MSU’s graduation ceremonies in December.

“This is gonna be a motivational thing for me,” Saint-Dic said. “I’m a faithful man, and God has his reasons for everything. I’m gonna jump back from this.

“I still really want to go down to Florida (for the game), but I think it would be devastating, too hard for me.”

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Champs Sports Bowl
By Brian Edwards

Champs Sports Bowl

Michigan State (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Boston College (10-3 SU, 6-6 ATS)

How they got there:

Boston College won its first eight games, including a thrilling comeback win at Virginia Tech in a nationally-televised Thursday game. The Eagles climbed to No. 2 in the nation before dropping back-to-back games to FSU and Maryland. They responded with wins at Clemson and vs. Miami to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division, but the Hokies got revenge on BC with a 30-16 victory in the league title game.

Michigan State beat Purdue and Penn State in the last two weeks of the regular season to garner its first bowl bid since 2003. Mark Dantonio did an outstanding job during his first year in East Lansing, as all five of the Spartans’ losses came by seven points or less. They were an especially lucrative squad as underdogs, compiling a 4-0-1 spread record.

What to expect:

BC has one of the country’s premier aerial attacks led by senior quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 4,258 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Eagles also play some defense. In fact, they have the nation’s best rush defense, surrendering just 68.1 yards per game on the ground

Michigan State has a balanced offensive attack that averaged better than 200 yards per game both rushing and passing. Junior RB Javon Ringer is the catalyst for this unit, running for 1,346 yards and six TDs. Ringer averaged 6.0 yards per carry.

Junior QB Brian Hoyer emerged as a more-than-capable replacement for Drew Stanton. Hoyer threw for 2,594 yards with an excellent 18/7 TD-INT ratio. Junior WR Devin Thomas enjoyed a breakout season, hauling in 75 receptions for 1,226 yards and eight TDs.

Players to Watch:

Ryan might be the first QB taken in the NFL Draft. He has great size, an excellent arm and is more mobile than people think, as evidenced on several plays in BC’s riveting comeback in Blacksburg.

BC has a trio of All-ACC performers on the defensive side of the ball. They are senior LB Jolonn Dunbar, senior CB DeJuan Tribble and senior safety Jamie Silva.

Ringer makes Michigan State’s ground game go, but the Spartans also have a short-yardage specialist in Jehuu Caulcrick, who has 21 rushing TDs. Defensively, Jonal Saint-Dic had a team-high 10 sacks and eight forced fumbles, but he was suspended on Christmas Eve (more below).

Bowl Records:

This is BC’s ninth consecutive trip to a bowl game. The Eagles have won seven in a row during the postseason, hooking up their backers at a 6-1 ATS clip. They saw their run of six straight covers in bowl games come to an end last season, when Navy took the cash in a 25-24 loss as a seven-point underdog.

As we mentioned earlier, this is Michigan State’s first bowl appearance since 2003. The Spartans came to Orlando in 1999 and beat Florida 37-34 as 2 ½-point underdogs.

Bowl History:

Boston College thumped Virginia 31-13 in the 1994 Champs Sports Bowl

Inside the Line: Boston College -3.5, 56

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened BC as a 3 ½-point favorite on Dec. 3, and there’s been little movement since then. LVSC sent the total out at 55 ½ and it has only inched upward slightly.

The ‘over’ has been a money-making machine in Michigan State games recently. In fact, the Spartans have watched the ‘over’ hit at an 8-1 clip in their last nine games. On the flip side, BC has seen three consecutive ‘unders.’

Michigan State announced the suspension of five players on Christmas Eve. Three of the players are back-ups, but Saint-Dic and senior LB SirDarean Adams are key contributors. Adams had a pair of interceptions in a late-season win against Purdue.

Expert Opinion: - Jorge Gonzalez

“Mark Dantonio did a great job in his first year at Michigan State,” Gonzalez told VI. “Nobody ran away from the Spartans in the regular season. They had five losses of seven points or less and blew a great chance to beat Michigan. But Dantonio’s team never went into the tank and picked up a couple of late-season wins in underdog spots.”

“BC wants to send Ryan out on a strong note. That’s a senior-laded squad aiming for an 11th win. The matchup of Michigan State’s running game with its 1-2 combo of backs against BC’s rush defense will be pivotal. The team that gets the best of that matchup will most likely cover the number,” Gonzalez said.

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Champs Sports Bowl: Michigan State Spartans vs. Boston College Eagles

- Boston College ranked No. 2 in the nation at one point, but a pair of losses followed by an ACC title loss doomed them. Now they take on Michigan State in a consolation Champs Sports Bowl at the Florida Citrus Bowl on December 28.

Oddsmakers currently have the Eagles listed as 4-point favorites versus the Spartans, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

The Spartans scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and came away with a 35-31 upset win over the Penn State Nittany Lions last time out, as 2.5-point underdogs. The combined 66 points sailed OVER the posted total of 51.

Devin Thomas caught seven passes for 138 yards with three touchdowns to lift the Spartans.

Boston College had two turnovers last time out in a 30-16 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, falling as 4.5-point home underdogs. The 46 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 48.5.

Matt Ryan was 33-for-52 for 305 yards and two interceptions, and Andre Callender caught 13 passes for 92 yards for the Eagles.

Team records:
Michigan State: 7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS
Boston College: 10-3 SU, 6-6 ATS

Michigan State most recently:
When playing in December are 2-5
When playing on grass are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 4-6
When playing outside the conference are 9-1

Boston College most recently:
When playing in December are 7-2
When playing on grass are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 7-3
When playing outside the conference are 10-0

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 8 of Michigan State's last 9 games
Michigan State is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games
Boston College is 11-3 SU in its last 14 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Boston College's last 7 games
Boston College is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games

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MICHIGAN STATE vs. BOSTON COLLEGE (Champs Sports)...Note MSU 4-1 as dog TY, and Dantonio teams 8-3-1 as dog since LY. BC no covers 4 of last 5 TY overall, and no covers last 4 as chalk TY. Eagles have won 7 straight bowls, however, covering 6 (all O’Brien; non-cover was LY vs. Navy). Tech edge-MSU, based on recent trends.

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Game Preview for Boston College vs Michigan St

GAME NOTES: The 14th-ranked Boston College Eagles will try to cap off another successful campaign this Friday, as they take on the Michigan State Spartans in the 18th annual Champs Sports Bowl at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The Eagles have accomplished many things this season under first-year coach Jeff Jagodzinski, including winning their first ACC Atlantic Division title. Although BC was upended in the ACC title game by Virginia Tech (30-16), the team still finished the regular season with 10 wins for the just the second time in school history (1940 was the first). The team was even ranked as high as number-two, and with a victory in this game, it would match the 1940 squad for the most victories in a single season. BC is playing its school-record ninth straight bowl game and its has won a nation-high seven bowl games in a row. Overall, the Eagles are 12-6 in bowl games and that includes 25-24 victory over Navy in the last season's Meineke Car Care Bowl. As for MSU, it closed out the regular season with two straight wins to finish 7-5 and earn its fist bowl bid in four years. This is the Spartans' 18th all-time bowl appearance and their first since dropping a 17-3 decision to Nebraska in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. MSU hasn't had all that much success in the postseason, going just 7-10 all-time in bowl games. In terms of the all-time series, BC owns a 3-1-1 edge over MSU, but the teams haven't met since the Spartans posted a 25-21 triumph in 1995.

On offense, the Eagles rely heavily on the strong and accurate arm of Matt Ryan, who was named the ACC Player of the Year for his tremendous play during the regular season. The talented gunslinger has thrown for 4,258 yards and 28 touchdowns, both of which are school records. Ryan has completed 60.3 percent of his tosses, although he made some bad decisions at times, being intercepted on 18 occasions. One of Ryan's favorite outlets is tailback Andre Callender, who leads the team in catches (72) to go along with 705 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The versatile Callender is every bit as dangerous when carrying the ball as well, rushing for 936 yards and nine more scores. Rich Gunnell and Brandon Robinson are two of Ryan's favorite wideouts and they have combined for 111 catches, 1,567 and 10 touchdowns. Another weapon Ryan has utilized is tight end Ryan Purvis, who has pulled down 52 balls for 535 yards and four touchdowns. As a team, BC is scoring a respectable 28.6 ppg behind a solid 434.5 total ypg this season.

BC possesses one of the better defensive units around, as it is holding its opponents to just 20.3 ppg and only 329.2 total ypg. The Eagles have been especially tough against opposing ground attacks, yielding a nation-low 68.1 rushing ypg. The defense has shown vulnerability against the pass (261.0 ypg), but it has been able to compensate for some of those yards by picking off 21 passes and registering 34 sacks. The defense is paced by All-American candidate Jamie Silva, who tops the club with 115 tackles and six interceptions. Mark Herzlich has also played a big part in this unit's success and leads the team in TFLs (12), while ranking second in stops with 86.

The Spartans are a dangerous team on offense and they are rolling up 34.1 ppg and 426.2 total ypg for the season. The offense had displayed balance between the run (200.3 ypg) and pass (225.9 ypg), and it has also done a tremendous job protecting the ball, committing just 13 turnovers. Tailbacks Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick are two instrumental parts of this offense and they have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards already. Ringer leads the squad with 1,346 yards and he also scored six touchdowns, while Caulcrick adds 813 yards, to go along with a team-high 21 touchdowns. Ringer has even played a part in the passing attack, ranking second with 34 catches. Speaking of the passing game, Brian Hoyer has had himself a solid campaign under center, as he has completed 61.5 percent of his tosses for 2,594 yards. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. His main target is Devin Thomas, who leads the squad with 75 catches, 1,226 yards and eight scores.

Defensively, MSU has struggled to keep opposing teams off the board over the second half of the season, as it has allowed each of its past four opponents to score 28 points or more. Overall, the Spartans are giving up 26.8 ppg for the season, despite holding their foes to a decent 351.3 total ypg. The unit hasn't fared all that poorly against the run (134.1 ypg) or the pass (217.2 ypg), but it has struggled in its attempt to force turnovers, generating only 18. On a positive note, MSU has been able to bring down opposing quarterbacks on a frequent basis, racking up 37 sacks. Jonal Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin are the two players that have caused havoc for opposing offensive linemen, as they have combined for 17.5 sacks and 31 TFLs. However, Saint-Dic will miss the postseason due to academic issues. Greg Jones (73 tackles) and Kendall Davis- Clark (72 stops) are the squad's top two tacklers and they have also totaled 7.5 sacks between them.

The Eagles have had a tremendous amount of success in bowl games over recent years, but things won't come easy against this dangerous MSU club. If BC's run defense is as good as advertised, than the Eagles should come out victorious in this game.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boston College 28, Michigan State 24

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Michigan State (7-5, 7-4-1 ATS) vs. (14) Boston College (10-3, 6-6 ATS)

The Spartans aim to keep a late-season roll going when they battle a Boston College squad that is looking to salvage a once-promising season by winning its eighth consecutive bowl game.

Michigan State ended an up-and-down year with back-to-back wins and spread-covers, including a 35-31 victory over Penn State as a 2½-point home underdog to cap the regular season on Nov. 17. QB Brian Hoyer was an efficient 16 of 21 for 257 yards with four TDs and two INTs, as he finished the year completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,594 yards, 18 TDs and just seven INTs. The Spartans finished the Penn State game with 425 yards, right at their season average of 426.2.

The Spartans come into this contest shorthanded, as five players have been suspended, most notably star defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic, who had a team-leading 10 sacks and eight forced fumbles.

Boston College started the year 8-0 (5-2 ATS in lined games), but finished on a 2-3 slide (1-4 ATS), including a 30-16 setback to Virginia Tech as a five-point pup in the ACC championship game on Dec. 1. Highly touted Eagles QB Matt Ryan completed 33 of 52 attempts against Va-Tech for 305 yards, but he had no TDs and two INTs. Still, Ryan finished the year connecting on 60.3 percent of his throws for 4,259 yards, with 28 TDs and 18 INTs.

The Spartans are back in the postseason for the first time since 2003, when they lost to Nebraska 17-3 as a three-point pup in the Alamo Bowl. Michigan State’s bowl history has been less than stellar, as it is just 7-10 all-time in the postseason (5-8 ATS).

B.C. has qualified for the postseason for the ninth consecutive year and is riding an NCAA-best seven-game bowl winning streak (6-1 ATS). The only non-cover came in last year’s Meineke Bowl, when the Eagles topped Navy 25-24 but failed to cash as an eight-point chalk

Michigan State is on an 8-3-1 ATS roll as an underdog dating to the start of last season, including 4-1 ATS this season after consecutive outright upsets to close the campaign. The Spartans are also on positive ATS runs of 4-0 following a SU victory and 5-1 against teams with a winning record. On the downside, Mark Dantonio’s squad is just 7-16 ATS in its last 23 non-conference contests.

The Eagles are 15-6 ATS in their last 21 games against teams with a winning record. However, they’ve failed to cash in four consecutive games as a favorite and they’re just 4-11 ATS in their last 15 as a road chalk, including 0-2 ATS this year.

Michigan State, which averaged 34.1 points per game, features a balanced offense that averages 225.9 passing and 200.3 rushing yards per contest. Defensively, the Spartans surrendered 26.8 points and 351.3 yards per game.

Boston College put up 28.6 points and 436.5 total yards per contest, and with Ryan leading the way, the Eagles ranked sixth in the nation in passing (329.7 ypg). Defensively, the Eagles struggled against the pass, giving up 263.3 ypg through the air, which ranked 105th nationally.

The over was 9-3 for Michigan State this year, with the last four in a row topping the total. The over is also 7-2 in Boston College’s last nine games as a favorite and 4-1 in the Eagles’ last five bowl games.


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What bettors need to know: Michigan State vs. Boston College

The Line

This line opened at -3 but many books have already moved it to -3½ and -4½. Not only is the betting public on the Eagles, but 77 percent of Wagerline users who made a pick on this game have also chosen BC to cover the spread.

The streak

Boston College currently holds the nation’s longest bowl winning streak with seven straight wins. Michigan State is playing in its first bowl game since 2003.

The guarantee

Usually this type of thing comes from a player. But Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo has promised victory in Orlando on Dec. 28.

"We're going to a bowl and we will win it," DeFilippo said earlier this month.  "We'll be 11-3 and that will be a heckuva season. We've got our bowl streak (a best-in-the-nation seven straight wins). We've still got a lot to play for."

DeFilippo could be trying to drum up supporters to travel to Florida. Boston College fans are notorious for traveling poorly. That factor may have played a key role when the Eagles were skipped over for the more prestigious Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Where would you rather be?

If you’re BC, you’d rather be at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Boston College blew its shot at a BCS bowl berth when it lost the ACC championship game to Virginia Tech. The loss stung even more when the Chick-fil-A Bowl committee opted to invite Clemson instead of Boston College, even though BC had the better record.

Several BC players have admitted to being disappointed with their bowl situation. Fans who might have gone to this game might not now because they already traveled to Florida for the ACC title game in Jacksonville just a few weeks ago.

As for Michigan State, it is just loving the opportunity to be back in a bowl game. The Spartans last played in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. One of the first orders of business for head coach Mark Dantonio when he arrived in East Lansing was to get back to a bowl game.

When MSU last traveled to Orlando for the 2000 Citrus Bowl, it exceeded its ticket allotment of 12,000. The Spartans think they’ll exceed that again this year by a long shot.

Important stats you may have overlooked
Boston College ranks first in the nation in rush defense with 68.1 rush yards against per game. That’s important because Michigan State has a strong one-two punch in the backfield with Jehuu Caulcrick (21 touchdowns) and Javon Ringer (1,346 yards).

BC ranks fifth in the nation in passes intercepted with 21. That’s important because Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer only threw seven interceptions all season.

Boston College ranks sixth in the nation in passing offense with 329.7 yards per game. That’s important because Michigan State has one of the most intimidating pass rushes in the nation. The Spartans rank 12th in the country in sacks and 13th in tackles for loss.

Michigan State averages over 200 yards on the ground and 200 yards through the air. The Spartans also led the Big Ten in scoring offense with 34.1 points per game. That’s important because BC’s overall defense ranks 25th in the nation. The Spartans are going to need to switch gears throughout the game if they hope to win.

Michigan State ranks 18th in the country with 5.33 penalties per game. The Spartans only committed seven offsides all season thanks to Dantonio’s commitment to reducing penalties this year. That’s important because BC ranks 92nd in the country with 7.15 penalties per game.

The quarterbacks

At the start of the season, MSU’s Brian Hoyer looked a lot like a guy in his first year as starter. His timing was off with his receivers and he threw some errant passes that left viewers wondering who his intended target was.

As the season wore on, however, Hoyer became much more comfortable in the pocket. In his final two games he had better than a 70-percent completion mark against both Purdue and Penn State. He threw for six touchdowns and over 500 yards combined in those games, so he should have some added confidence coming into the Champ Sports Bowl. Hoyer doesn’t have great speed, so BC defenders don’t really have to worry about him tucking and running it at them, but he doesn’t really have to with MSU’s strong running game.

There is some talk of BC’s Matt Ryan going first overall in the NFL draft this year. He certainly has the size at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. He also has the passing yards with over 4,000 this season, along with 28 touchdowns. And when it comes to flat-out arm strength, there probably isn’t anyone in college who can throw to the opposite field across his body the way Ryan can.

The problem with Ryan is turnovers. He has a bad habit of throwing ugly interceptions and being careless with the ball. He has 18 interceptions this season and that’s something he’ll need to cut down on to make it as a pro. Still, Ryan is a winner, which many saw when he led the Eagles to a thrilling comeback in the rain against Virginia Tech earlier in the season.

Total watch

Michigan State was one of the best over bets in the nation this season with an over/under record of 10-3. Eight of the last nine Spartans games also played over, but that was against lower totals often seen in the Big Ten. The highest total Michigan State saw all year was 62 ½ against Indiana; the lowest was 44 points against Notre Dame. 

The number of 56 is the fourth-highest total the Spartans have seen this season.

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