Wednesday, December 26

The Champs Sports Bowl: Blatant Commercialism, but Not As Bad as the PapaJohn' Bowl

Would you believe that according to the College Football Data Warehouse, the Champs Sports Bowl is a major bowl? Yeah, I'm surprised too, but I guess "Bowls People Watch To Escape Their In-Laws" is kind of an unwieldy designation. This game is best known for complete and total blowouts - Texas Tech 55-15 over Clemson in '02, NC State 56-26 over Kansas in '03, and GT 55-16 over Syracuse in '04 (they made a bowl?). Now we have a sub-.500 conference team facing a BCS contender. Who's ready for a close game? (Wait a while. Not happening here.)

Boston College (by Coach Lawrence)

The Boston College Eagles took advantage of one of the NCAA’s easiest first halves of a schedule to jump out to a quick 7-0 start and #2 national ranking. Their first living, breathing opponent, Virginia Tech, led the Eagles 10-0 late in the 4th quarter before a prevent defense, onside kick recovery, and TD pass on 3rd and 20 allowed BC to escape with a road victory over an eventual top 10 team. However, the following week their luck ran out against Florida State, as Matt Ryan threw three interceptions including a late game pick six to assure the end of their run at a perfect season. A loss to Maryland that was close in final score only added insult, and another multiple-interception game, to injury for the Eagles. After escaping Clemson with a 4th quarter victory and sending the lifeless Miami Hurricanes to an early end to their season, BC faced Va Tech in a rematch game for the ACC title. It was yet another multiple-interception performance from Ryan which nearly send the Va Tech Hokies to the national championship game.

Boston College features a defense which has shaved 1.3 ypc off of their allowed rushing average compared to 2006, moving their per-game average allowed from 109 to 68 ypg. What this has done is forced opposing teams to get into aerial battles with Matt Ryan, BC’s quarterback who was a Heisman hopeful before a string of turnover-prone games led to a 2-3 finish for the team. Unfortunately, while the rushing defense is vastly improved, everything else is about the same as last year. Rushing ypg offense is almost identical, and pass defense is marginally worse. The passing ypg is up almost 90 ypg, but QB rating changed by only +2, yards/attempt +0.1, and the TD:INT has doubled on both sides (same ratio). The Eagles literally live and die by Matt Ryan’s arm. In their 7-0 start, Ryan had a rating probably around 140 and a 17:5 TD:INT ratio. In their final six games, that fell to something below 120 and 11:12... in the three losses, a similar rating with 5:7.

Keys To Victory:
1. There really is just one key to victory for BC. Don’t throw interceptions. In 10 wins, you’d see Matt Ryan throw 2.3 TD and 1.1 INT, on average. In 3 losses, you’d see 1.7 TD and 2.3 INT on average. Throwing a pick isn’t a big deal, but when you kill TWO drives and give up twice the risk of a defensive score (offhand, both FSU and VT scored defensive touchdowns in their wins over BC) that’s when you start asking for trouble.

2. Stuff MSU’s rushing game. This has been the standard MO for the BC defense. However, Sparty runs for just over 200 ypg, so it’ll be a battle of wills. Bring the extra defender if needed... I’ll take Matt Ryan over Brian Hoyer if it comes to that.

3. DON’T THROW INTERCEPTIONS. Really, Matt, stop doing that. It’s bad for you.

Michigan State (by Coach Pendley)

Fun fact: Michigan State went 4-3 against bowl-playing teams this season. Of course, if you subscribe to the tenet that teams at .500 are bowl-eligible, the Spartans went 4-5. Another fun fact: Michigan State is one of four Big 10 teams to finish the season at 3-5 in conference, and one of three teams to finish at 7-5, 3-5. What's all that mean? It's that they don't really do anything well, although they at least took care of business against bad teams. And that win against Notre Dame is going to look really good in a few years.

MSU sports a two-headed rushing attack: Javon Ringer gets all the yards (1346) and Jehou Caulcrick gets all the credit (21 TDs). Devin Thomas is the only Big 10 WR to average over 100 yards receiving a game. The defense isn't half-bad, but where the Spartans really fall into trouble is in special teams - subpar punting and a 65% FG rate mean they can't afford to turn this game into a field position battle.

Keys to Victory:
1: Run the @#&$ out of it. Ask Virginia Tech what happens when you give the ball to Matt Ryan late in a close game. Ringer and Caulcrick are an incredibly potent 1-2 rushing combo, and they're going to have to be effective against the BC front 7. Of course, BC's front seven have been beasts all year, but the last thing you want to do is let them pin their ears back and start pass rushing.

2: Throw out the scout team. There's no way in hell that Michigan State has faced any QB who's as good as Matt Ryan (with the possible, but not likely, exemption of Curtis Painter). As rough as it is to say, the Spartans aren't going to be able to do anything beyond marginalize Ryan at best, so don't go nuts trying to stop him.

3: Limit the picks. Thomas should get his yards, but the BC secondary are ball hawks. Don't make it flagrantly obvious the ball is going to Thomas when Brian Hoyer drops back to pass and that'll help. What'll also help is MSU's secondary picking off a couple of Ryan's passes.