Eagles Head to Orlando for Spartan WarBy Ryan Morfopoulos The Heights
December 7, 2007
Chestnut Hill, MA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- After losing Saturday's ACC championship game 30-16 at the hands of Virginia Tech, and missing out on a bid to the Orange Bowl, the Boston College Eagles will be playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 28. It will be their school-record, ninth-consecutive bowl appearance. BC also has won seven consecutive bowls- the longest current streak in the NCAA.
Despite having the second-best record in the ACC this year and currently being the second-ranked ACC team in the BCS, the Eagles were passed over by the more prestigious Chick-fil-A and Gator Bowls, respectively.
Although the Eagles did not achieve their goal of winning the ACC championship, head coach Jeff Jagodzinski is still pleased to be attending a bowl game in Orlando. "There's not many teams in the country that have 10 wins," Jagodzinski said. "You get to play a conference that you don't get to play a lot. Our guys are very excited to play a good Michigan State team."
After winning their first eight games and vaulting to the No. 2 ranking in the country, the Eagles lost three of their last five games against ACC foes and is currently ranked No. 14 in the BCS standings.
Their opponent, the Michigan State Spartans, are making their first bowl appearance since the 2003 season, after three consecutive losing seasons. The Spartans are coming off two impressive wins against Big Ten powers Penn State and Purdue to salvage a season that promisingly began at 4-0, leaving Michigan State with a 7-5 record entering the bowl season.
In the Penn State win, which made them bowl eligible, Michigan State made a tremendous comeback in the second half. Down 24-7 in the third quarter, MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three second-half touchdown passes, and Jehuu Caulcrick ran the ball in from one yard out with 4:08 to play in the game, giving the Spartans a 35-31 lead that they would not relinquish. Caulcrick ranks fourth in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns, with 21.
Despite having a losing conference record in the Big Ten, at 3-5, the physical Spartans proved their resilience and strong will throughout the season, playing close games against tough teams all year. MSU played three ranked teams this season: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 9 Wisconsin, and No. 12 Michigan, and lost each game by a touchdown or less.
Following the Penn State win, excited first-year head coach Mark Dantonio said, "This is a great reward for a team that refused to quit and competed each and every week. We're extremely fortunate to be playing in Orlando, truly one of the nation's finest bowl destinations."
As excited as the Spartans may be for this game, they must find a way to contain ACC Player of the Year Matt Ryan, as he leads a passing offense ranked sixth in the country, against a relatively weak secondary.
Michigan State's rushing offense is a strong point for the team, ranked 23rd in the country with an average of 200.3 yards per game, but the Eagles will counter this with the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation, allowing only 68.1 yards per game.
A likely explanation for Michigan State receiving the bid as the fifth-picked Big Ten team lies in the enormous following the team has. Michigan State sold 25,000 tickets for the Citrus Bowl in 2000.
"We have an obligation to take 12,000 tickets," said Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis. "I see no problem achieving that with the people who'll travel from the state of Michigan and 10 strong alumni clubs in Florida. This team is 28 points from having an undefeated season."
Regardless of the big-time bowls passing over BC once again this season, the Eagles have enjoyed back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history and are poised to finish the season at 11-3.
(C) 2007 The Heights via CSTV U-WIRE