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Orange Bowl Primer: FSU vs NIU

Who: FSU Seminoles (11-2) vs NIU Huskies (12-1)

Where: South Beach

When: New Year's Day, 8:30 PM EST

TV: ESPN

Line: Noles by 14.5

Ross: In the wake of Northern Illinois' selection to the Orange Bowl this year, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. How could they be "worthy" of a BCS bid, doubters said? They lost to a bad Iowa team in the season opener. They barely beat also-rans like Kansas and Army. They struggled with Western Michigan, Toledo, and Kent State. And that's all true. But they also won 12 games in a row (tied with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the longest active winning streaks in the nation), have a high-powered offense (40.8 ppg, 6th best nationally; they scored 30+ in 12 of 13 games and 40+ in 7 games), and a pretty solid defense (19.0 ppg, 18th nationally; they held 5 opponents under 10 points). Florida State has impressive numbers themselves — 39.9 ppg on offense (12th nationally; 7 games of 40+ ppg), 15.1 ppg on defense (6th nationally; 5 opponents held under 10 points). But they were far from invincible — they lost to a mediocre NC State team and struggled to beat a mediocre Georgia Tech team in the ACC Championship Game. And we've seen several teams from "lesser" leagues (the WAC, the Mountain West, the Big East) knock off opponents from more prestigious leagues in BCS bowls. Florida State has more talent than Northern Illinois, there's no denying that and Northern Illinois will be at a definite disadvantage that those other underdog teams didn't face (their HC, Dave Doeren, left before the bowl game, unlike guys like Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson who guided Boise State and TCU, respectively, to their big triumphs). The fear when someone crashes the BCS party is that they'll get embarrassed by the "big boys" the way Hawaii did when they played Georgia Tech in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.  I don't think that will happen in this game. This NIU team is better than that Hawaii team — and this Florida State isn't as strong as that Georgia team. NIU's hopes of springing the upset likely rest with QB Jordan Lynch; he was a one-man offensive dynamo for them, passing for 2962 yards and 24 TDs (on 63% completion percentage) and rushing for 1771 yards and 19 TDs.  He struggled in his lone game against a BCS defense (Iowa held him to 119 yards rushing and 54 yards passing), though he's improved since then as he's gotten comfortable running the NIU offense.  Still, for NIU to win this game, Lynch will need to have a monster game. I think an upset IS possible… but I don't feel comfortable picking it to happen.

 
FLORIDA STATE 35, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 21
 
Kevin: The biggest question for me is just how motivated is Florida State to play in this game? Every year we hear how this is the year that FSU will be back and that they will be in the National Title hunt again. FSU had a really good season at 11-2 but they were eliminated from any National Title chances fairly early in the season by a not-so-good NC State squad. They also lost to the best team on their schedule (Florida). Florida State should win this one but they can't allow NIU to hang around and start to believe that they can win this game. If they do that, it could be trouble.
 
FSU 38 NIU 17
Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section and founder of College Football Zealots

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