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Friday, December 28, 2007

Champs Sports Bowl Preview

Champs Sports Bowl
Michigan State Spartans (7-5) vs Boston College Eagles (10-3)
Friday, December 28th 5:00PM, ESPN

Yesterday we took an indepth look at the Boston College Eagles. That preview can be found here. Today let's take a glimpse at Michigan State and preview tonight's game.

The Spartans come to Orlando boasting one of the nation’s top running games. Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, Michigan State's lightning-and-thunder duo, combined for 2,159 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns this season. Ringer finished the regular season with an impressive average of 6.0 yards per carry. Caulcrick is the bruiser of the two that does his best work near the goal line, scoring 21 touchdowns in 12 games.

MSU's new head coach Mark Dantonio rode Ringer and Caulcrick to an early-season 4-0 start. The Spartans then overcame their reputation for late-season collapses by shifting some of their offensive focus away from the run. Wide 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 connected with Thomas early and often. Thomas, who doubles as a kickoff return threat, caught 17 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan State's final two wins over Purdue and Penn State.

MSU will need all the offensive balance it can muster to keep up with Boston College. The Spartans’ defense was less than spectacular in conference play, 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. However, Saint-Dic was ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game. He and four other Spartans will sit out the Champs Sports Bowl from academic and other violations.

The absence of Saint-Dic and fellow defensive standout SirDarean Adams may be the key to the game. If their replacements on defense can find ways to hassle BC quarterback Matt Ryan, the Spartans could pull off the upset. If Ryan has time to set up and throw downfield, however, the Eagles will tack another win onto the nation's longest current bowl game winning streak.