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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Champs Sports Preview: Boston College

Boston College Eagles
10-3 (ACC 6-2, 2nd)

Boston College and Michigan State meet Friday night in Orlando’s Champs Sports Bowl. Both schools showed improvement this season under first-year head coaches. Let's take an indepth look at the Spartan's opponent Friday night.

Boston College’s rise to claim the ACC Atlantic title under new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski may have been one of the bigger surprises in college football this year. Jagodzinski took over for former coach Tom O’Brien who left BC for division rival North Carolina State. O’Brien led the Eagles for 10 seasons and to a streak of seven straight bowl game victories, the nation’s longest current streak.

Jagodzinski’s first college head coaching job was aided by the presence of upperclassmen throughout the Eagles’ lineup. None was more important than senior quarterback and projected first-rounder Matt Ryan.

Ryan led the Eagles to an 8-0 start out of the gate. He became the Heisman frontrunner overnight after leading an amazing comeback at Virginia Tech at the end of October. The win also placed Boston College at No. 2 in the national rankings.

Eagles-fever died down in November and December, when Ryan threw more interceptions than touchdown passes and BC slumped to a 2-3 finish. Boston College still went on to win the Atlantic division of the ACC and had a shot at an Orange Bowl berth but lost their rematch with Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game.

The team’s offensive numbers are pass-heavy with an NFL-ready quarterback running the offense behind an experienced line that excels in pass protection. Boston College’s senior backfield duo can also make plays when needed. Andre Callender caught 72 passes out of the backfield on the year and also ran for nearly 1,000 yards.

One of the glaring problems for the Eagles is special teams play. Former walk-on kicker Steve Aponavicius 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 DeJean Tribble. The BC run defense will be tested against Michigan State; a defense that 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.