Bowl Breakdown: Champs Sports

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t1_ryan.jpg's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.

It was a memorable season for the Eagles in their first year under coach Jeff Jagodzinski, with one-time Heisman contender Matt Ryan (4,258 yards, 28 TDs) pulling out last-second comebacks against Virginia Tech and Clemson to win the ACC Atlantic division title. Ryan, despite an absence of receivers who can stretch the field, is a master of scrambling and buying the time needed to make big plays downfield.

The Eagles' underrated defense (25th nationally) is led by All-America safety Jamie Silva (115 tackles, six interceptions), who makes plays all over the field. Cornerback DeJuan Tribble is a playmaking threat both on defense (four interceptions) and in the return game. Alex Albright (8.5 sacks) is a menacing pass-rusher.

The Spartans started 4-0, then dropped five of their first six Big Ten contests before rebounding with season-ending wins over Purdue and Penn State. They ride a pair of talented tailbacks in speedster Javon Ringer (1,346 yards) and bruiser Jehuu Caulcrick (813 yards, 21 TDs). Quarterback Brian Hoyer (2,594 yards) and receiver Devin Thomas (75 catches, 1,226 yards) form a dangerous connection.

Earlier this week, Michigan State suspended five players for the bowl game because of academic or other violations. The two most prominent players suspended were defensive standouts Jonal Saint-Dic and SirDarean Adams. Saint-Dic (10 sacks) emerged as one of the Big Ten's top pass-rushers this season, while Adams served as a key playmaker in the Spartans' linebacking corps. Michigan State's defense suffered a couple of breakdowns in midseason losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin but for the most part was fairly decent. Safety Otis Wiley (four interceptions) is a productive ballhawk.

The Spartans made some good strides under first-year coach Mark Dantonio and are probably better than their record indicates, but they drew a bad matchup in top-15 foe BC and the suspensions don't help. In his last collegiate game, expect Ryan to put up more big passing numbers, while the Eagles' defense is capable of slowing down MSU's attack.

The pick: Boston College 27, Michigan State 14