Champs Sports Bowl
Dec. 28, 2 p.m. PST
Boston College (10-3) vs. Michigan State (7-5)
Spread: Boston College – 4
Boston College looked like the favorite when this match-up was announced. They were passed over by the Chick-fil-A Bowl and are playing a mediocre team from a mediocre Big 10 conference. Michigan State is a tough team that can run the football but BC is one of the best in the country at stopping the run. Then the suspensions happened. Michigan State left star defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic at home along with talented but troubled linebacker SirDarean Adams. Wide receiver Terry Love, who makes most of his contributions in the return game, was also suspended. The Spartans are going to need all the help they can get defensively against Boston College quarterback and ACC player of the year Matt Ryan. Without Saint-Dic and Adams they’ll be shorthanded and much of the pressure will be unfairly placed on the MSU offense.
That said, the Spartans have enough playmakers to move the ball against BC. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has done a good job of limiting mistakes this season throwing just seven interceptions while completing 61 percent of his passes. Oddly enough, the two games he threw multiple interceptions in (vs. Bowling Green and Penn State) the Spartans still managed to win. Against the potent BC offense that won’t be the case. Hoyer can’t afford to turn the ball over. Every MSU possession will be crucial and they need to pick up points whenever possible. Wide receiver Devin Thomas might be the best in the Big 10. The junior is an explosive athlete who is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. BC doesn’t have the talent in their defensive backfield to match-up against him one-on-one unless DeJuan Tribble can comeback from a knee injury that nearly ended his season. Thomas is also expected to help in the return game with Terry Love not available. If Tribble is in the lineup MSU won’t be able to rely on Thomas to win the game for them.
Michigan State probably won’t stray from their season long game plan of grinding it out on the ground. The running back tandem of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick has combined for over 2,000 yards rushing and 27 TD’s. Ringer gets the bulk of the carries (six 100-yard games this year) but inside the red zone Caulcrick is the work horse (21 TD’s). If they can have any success against a BC run defense that is statistically the best in the nation, MSU will stay in the ball game but they’ll need balance to win because they won’t be able to stop Ryan from putting up points.
Few teams have managed to stop Matt Ryan and the BC offense. He has thrown a ridiculous amount of passes for a quarterback outside of the Texas Tech/Hawaii offense and teams still couldn’t find a way to keep him from getting his numbers. He hit 400 yards in four games but that isn’t a great sign, two of those games were losses. Much like their counterparts, BC is at it’s best when it has some semblance of balance. Seeing as their wide receivers aren’t of the same caliber of Devin Thomas, the use of the running game is important for hitting a big play or two. Andre Callender should surpass 1,000 yards rushing on the season in this game and he also leads the team in catches. His 13 total TD’s are also a team best. He isn’t just a safety valve receiver, Callender is a big part of their passing game, something MSU hasn’t seen all year out of the backfield.
Face it, while the Big 10 is certainly down, the ACC isn’t enjoying a banner year either. Boston College was talented enough to find their way to the Orange Bowl but couldn’t finish off Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. That game lost their school a spot in the BCS and a lot of money. But if it weren’t for consecutive losses to Florida State and Maryland, two teams BC should have beaten, the Eagles could be playing for the national title.
I expect Michigan State to keep this close despite the suspensions their team has sustained. Nevertheless, Boston College is a very good football team that deserves a bigger bowl game than this. If they show up motivated to play, they’ll win the game handily. If not, there will be plenty of opportunities for Devin Thomas to make plays and help eek out a close one. I think BC comes ready to play and extends their bowl winning streak to eight, and still the longest current streak in the country.
Boston College 27 – Michigan State 17