Boston College owns the nation's longest bowl game winning streak at seven games and will try to make it eight when it takes on Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Not to disparage the hospitality of the folks in Orlando, but this not where the Eagles wanted to be or thought they would wind up.
For two weeks, on October 21st and 28th, Boston College was in second place in the BCS Standings. A miraculous comeback victory at Virginia Tech made the Eagles 8-0 and it looked like a national championship opportunity was their destiny.
The next week, Boston College was upset at home by Florida State. The following week, Maryland drove the Eagles further down the BCS Standings to No. 17 and the only thing left to play for was an ACC Championship and a BCS bid. They made it to the conference title game, but Virginia Tech got its revenge with a 30-16 win.
The question to be answered in this game is how the Eagles will rebound from losing three of their last five games and having prosperity slip through their grasp.
Boston College doesn't need to look much further than the upbeat new head coach, Jeff Jagodzinski. After that, it can look for reassurance from Johnny Unitas Award-winning quarterback Matt Ryan. Alongside Ryan are 24 other seniors whose 38-12 record is the best four-year mark of any group to go through Boston College.
Still, many can't help but wonder how back-to-back 10-3 records under two different head coaches can produce nothing bigger than a Meineke Car Care Bowl invitation last year, and a Champs Sports Bowl trip this year. The Chick-fil-A and Gator Bowls passed over the Eagles and selected Clemson (9-3) and Virginia (9-3), largely due to the scores of fans who were dressed as empty seats at the ACC Championship game in Jacksonville which reinforced the notion that BC's fan base won't show up in numbers.
Those who do show up in Orlando may witness a 400-yard passing game from Ryan as he goes against a Michigan State team that ranks 71st in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
However, these teams are pretty close offensively.
Michigan State, 7-5 under first-year head coach Mark Dantonio, is 33rd nationally in total offense while BC ranks 27th. The Spartans are 40th in total defense while the Eagles rank 25th.
Michigan State quarterback Bryan Hoyer ranks 27th nationally in pass efficiency, while the Eagles' Ryan only ranks 57th. Ryan threw for 4,258 yards and 28 TD's, but also threw 18 picks. Hoyer only threw for 2,594 yards with 18 TD's and 7 INT's. Michigan State's Devon Thomas led all Big Ten receivers with 1,226 yards.
The Spartans have the upper hand in the running game with Jevon Ringer amassing 1,346 yards and 6 TD's. When Michigan State sniffed the goal line, Jehuu Caulcrick crossed it 21 times while gaining 813 yards himself.
Boston College will counter that running threat with the top-ranked rushing defense in the land. The Eagles only conceded a paltry 68 yards per game and 8 touchdowns on the ground.
Michigan State let John L. Smith go as head coach at the end of the 2006 season as the team once again failed to live up to expectations. According to the Congrove Computer Rankings' preseason projections, the Spartans underperformed 3 of the last 5 seasons under Smith, matched expectations once, and exceeded them just once (2003). In Dantonio's first season, Michigan State is three wins ahead of the computer's projections. As a result, the Spartans are returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2003. The fans in East Lansing are now hoping to see something they haven't seen since 2001 - a bowl victory.