Most BC fans long for any coverage of the Eagles from the Boston media. Out in Michigan, things are a little different. The Spartans have a very good professional blog dedicated to Michigan State sports. To get a better feel of our Champs Bowl opponent, I've asked Joe from Bleeding Green a few questions about Michigan State. His answers are below. For more on Michigan State and general coverage of the Champs Bowl, check out Bleeding Green.
1. Michigan State's pass defense has been hit or miss. They generate plenty of pressure on the QB, but also have been picked apart and given up some big plays through the air. Do you think they will be more conservative going up against one of college football's better pass offenses like BC?
Bleeding Green: I really don't think they'll be more conservative, because Pat Narduzzi blitzes everyone. MSU's ends, Saint-Dic and Baldwin, are the strength of the defense and have been able to get heat on their own. But Narduzzi still sends the linebackers a lot and occasionally a cornerback. The way he's looking at this game is, if you sit back in coverage, Ryan will dink you to death. May as well try to get after him, maybe hit him a few times, gamble that BC's receivers won't beat you deep.
2. BC has been very good stopping the run. The most effective part of Michigan State's offense is its ground game and that is where the Spartans' best playermakers are. If the rushing attack gets stymied, how does MSU usually adjust?
Bleeding Green: This will be a very fun matchup to watch. Ohio State was the one team that really stuffed MSU's rush attack this year. The Spartans had pretty good success against everyone else. But in the final two games of the season, against Purdue and Penn State, both teams stacked the line and MSU had to pass to loosen things up. Quarterback Brian Hoyer played well in both games, and receiver Devin Thomas dominated. If Hoyer is playing well, this is a very difficult offense to handle, because backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick are both effective runners. Ringer is the primary back, elusive and speedy, and Caulcrick is the power guy.
3. What is your assesment of Mark D'Antonio's first year in East Lansing?
Bleeding Green: Dantonio's first year has been impressive. He inherited an underachieving team that went 4-8 last season and completely collapsed after blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to Notre Dame. He changed from spread to pro-style, and zone blocking to gap blocking, and the offense has been productive and balanced all season. He improved the defense, although the personnel is not there right now for major improvement. Most impressively, he somehow changed a losing culture that really took root under Bobby Williams in the early 2000s. A team known for falling apart in the face of adversity (blowing a 10-point lead to lose to rival Michigan was expected to kill the season) instead battled back to beat Purdue and Penn State. Also, the Spartans were not blown out all season. All five losses were by a touchdown or less -- including overtime losses to Iowa and Northwestern that never should have happened. The U-M loss was a crusher. MSU had a chance to win at Wisconsin on the road but lost 37-34. The Ohio State game finished 24-17, but the Buckeyes dominated most of that game before MSU came back with a couple defensive touchdowns. So it's been a good year, but also a year that could have been much better. That's where Dantonio and his staff deserve some criticism. There was some questionable playcalling late in the losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. To Dantonio's credit, he acknowledged that he and his staff should have done some things different in those games.
4. What is your prediction for the game?
Bleeding Green: I'm not technically allowed to make a prediction until it runs in our paper on game day. But at this point I expect a competitive, entertaining game. I think both offenses will be able to move the ball and score. I've seen Boston College several times this season, and I think MSU will have a very difficult time stopping Ryan and that offense. I also think BC will have a tough time with Devin Thomas, he really is a special talent. Overall, I'd have to say I favor the Eagles slightly.