Champs Sports Bowl

Boston College is looking to extend the nation's longest active winning streak in bowl games. This certainly is not the game the Eagles hoped to do it in.

Having blown chances to play in either the BCS national title game or the Orange Bowl, the Eagles must settle for a Dec. 28 trip to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando as they try to avoid having Michigan State spoil their perfect bowl record this decade.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Boston College –3.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for the Champs Sports Bowl (Game Matchup).

That would be little consolation to a team that opened 8-0 and was ranked No. 2 as late as the Oct. 28 poll, with quarterback Matt Ryan a Heisman Trophy candidate.

The No. 14 Eagles (10-3, 6-2 ACC) had their perfect season ruined with a home defeat to Florida State, and also lost the following week at Maryland. They did manage to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, only to lose out on an Orange Bowl berth by dropping the conference title game 30-16 to Virginia Tech.

A win over the Spartans (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten), though, would give the Eagles eight consecutive bowl victories. They've reached a bowl game in nine straight years, having gone unbeaten since a 62-28 loss to Colorado in the 1999 Bowl.

Utah has a chance to tie BC's bowl winning streak at seven when the Utes play Navy Dec. 20 in the Poinsettia Bowl.

BC's streak reached seven with a 25-24 victory over Navy in last year's Meineke Bowl on a 37-yard field goal by walk-on Steve Aponavicius as time expired.

That win is part of a 38-12 record by the Eagles' seniors, who comprise the winningest class in school history. But that class has only played in the Continental Tire Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl and the Meineke Bowl.

This season, BC ended the regular season with hopes of making a more high-profile bowl, such as the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But Clemson was chosen despite finishing second to BC in the Atlantic Division because the Eagles' fans aren't known to travel in large numbers. BC also missed out on the ACC's Gator Bowl berth, which went to Coastal Division runner-up Virginia.

"I don't think you look at it as a consolation," first-year BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "I'm looking forward to taking my team to a bowl."

Many of his players see it differently, especially since they had a chance to beat Virginia Tech. BC led 16-7 in the second quarter, but had an extra point blocked and returned for a safety that swung the momentum in the Hokies' favor.

The Eagles didn't score after that, and Ryan threw two interceptions while down a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, including one that was returned for a score with 11 seconds left.

"It's hard to put this one in words," BC senior linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. "We wanted to go to the Orange Bowl as bad as we wanted the ACC title. It's a setback in terms of this program, our team goals and our personal goals."

The Spartans' seniors, on the other hand, are just happy to play in a bowl. Michigan State last played in the postseason in 2003, losing the Alamo Bowl to Nebraska 17-3.

Unlike BC, Michigan State earned the berth based on a good reputation for travel after bringing 25,000 fans to Orlando for the Florida Citrus Bowl in 2000. First-year Spartans coach Mark Dantonio was an assistant in that game as they beat Florida 37-34.

"It's a chance to begin taking the steps towards getting to where we eventually want to be, which is a championship," Dantonio said. "... It gives us proof that we're heading in the right direction."

Michigan State started 4-0, only to drop five of six to open Big Ten play and put itself on the bowl bubble at 5-5. But wins in the Spartans' final two games ensured a bowl berth and they closed the regular season with a 35-31 home win over Penn State on Nov. 17, erasing a 31-21 fourth-quarter deficit.

The Spartans will have their work cut out for themselves defending Ryan, the ACC player of the year. Ryan is fifth in the nation with 327.5 passing yards per game, and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the country's top senior quarterback. He also set school passing records with 4,258 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.

Michigan State allowed 26.8 points per game this year, while BC's offense averaged 28.6.

"I've watched them play on TV a couple of times," Spartans safety Travis Key said. "They have a great team. And Matt Ryan is a great quarterback. You have to be pretty good to be on the Heisman Trophy list the way he was. But I know our coaches will get us ready to go."

Michigan State won its last two games despite allowing 31 points in each and a combined 872 total yards. In their last five games, the Spartans have given up an average of 179.8 yards on the ground, meaning BC senior Andre Callender (956 yards rushing) has a good chance for his first 1,000-yard season.

But led by a trio of juniors, the Spartans also can score. Brian Hoyer is second in the Big Ten with a 138.9 quarterback rating, Javon Ringer ranked third with 1,346 rushing yards and Devin Thomas topped the conference with 1,226 receiving yards. The Spartans average 34.1 points, and have compiled 841 total yards and 83 points their last two games.

BC's defense was ranked fifth in the ACC (331.4 yards allowed per game), and features All-America safety Jamie Silva, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the ACC title game.

The Eagles are 3-1-1 all-time against Michigan State, but the programs haven't played since 1995. That year, the Spartans earned their only win against BC, 25-21 at home.

The last time the schools played in any sport was in last season's hockey national championship, which Michigan State won 3-1.

BC won the Champs Sports Bowl when it was known as the Carquest Bowl and held in Miami on New Year's Day 1994, beating Virginia 31-13.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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