Bowl Breakdown: Meineke Car Care
SI.com's Dom Bonvissuto analyzes the matchup.
With coach Paul Johnson's signature triple-option attack, the Midshipmen led the nation in rushing by averaging an astounding 327 yards per game. After losing starting quarterback Brian Hampton to a knee injury, Navy didn't miss a bet -- sophomore Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada stepped in and led the Midshipmen to five victories in the final six games. Balance is the key, as eight players rushed for at least 100 yards on the season, with the leaders being Adam Ballard (796 yards), Reggie Campbell (678), the injured Hampton (773) and Kaheaku-Enhada (556). Navy QBs attempted a combined 104 passes all season; by comparison, Hawaii gunslinger Colt Brennan threw 559 times.
A lack of size on defense burned the Midshipmen against bigger opponents such as Notre Dame and Rutgers, which are comparable size-wise to BC. Rob Caldwell led the team with 109 tackles
Coach Tom O'Brien, a 1971 Navy graduate, bolted from Boston College for N.C. State before getting a chance to play his alma mater. Green Bay Packers assistant Jeff Jagodzinski has been named as O'Brien's replacement, however defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will coach the bowl game. Offensively, O'Brien achieved a lot with a young team, led by junior quarterback Matt Ryan (2.700 yards, 14 TDs, eight INTs). Junior L.V. Whitworth was the Eagles' leading rusher (790 yards, four TDs), while Kevin Challenger (508 receiving yards, five TDs) and Tony Gonzalez (441 receiving yards, five TDs) lead the receiving corps. The line is solid behind All-America guard Josh Beekman.
Defense is the Eagles' strength. Cornerback DeJuan Tribble grabbed seven interceptions this season. Linebacker Kevin Akins led the team with 7.5 sacks. Atkins combines with Jolonn Dunbar and Brian Toal to form one of the nation's best linebacking groups.
Navy's running attack is difficult to stop the first time a team sees it, but the blow is lessened with six weeks to prepare. Couple that with Boston College's solid linebacking corps and the Eagles have the edge.
The pick: Boston College 24, Navy 17