Welcome back folks! Have you had your fill of college football today? Well, lets put a cherry on top of the bowl sundae by previewing the nightcap, the Discover Orange Bowl. This game pits what may be the ultimate David vs Goliath match-up of any of the bowls – MAC champions Northern Illinois Huskies vs ACC champs the Florida State Seminoles. While many suggest that NIU playing in a bowl game seems farcical and perhaps a slap in the face to other BCS teams like Oklahoma, recent history suggest otherwise. Since the inception of the BCS bowls, non-AQ teams have participated in six previous BCS Bowls and won five times. Here are the previous BCS bowls that included no-AQ teams and their results:
- 2005 Fiesta Bowl – UTAH (MWC) defeats Pittsburgh (Big East) 35-7
- 2007 Fiesta Bowl – Boise St (WAC) defeats Oklahoma (Big 12) 43-42 OT
- 2008 Sugar Bowl – Hawaii (WAC) lost to Georgia (SEC) 41-10
- 2009 Sugar Bowl – Utah (MWC) defeats Alabama (SEC) 31-17
- 2010 Fiesta Bowl – Boise St (WAC) defeats TCU (MWC) 17-10
- 2011 Rose Bowl – TCU (MWC) defeats Wisconsin (Big Ten) 21-19
Looking at that list, many people felt that those non-AQ teams did not belong on the same field with their brethren only to see that that wasn’t true. Could tonight’s Orange Bowl be another chapter in the epic legacy of the non-AQ team in a BCS Bowl?
A year after defeating Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl, many pegged Florida State as team to watch to play for the national title. They were well on their way until they stumbled against NC State. While they aren’t playing for the title, they did win the ACC Conference Title and are playing in a BCS bowl. If you are person looking for positives, then the Seminoles are getting better each year and perhaps the 2013 football season will be the year they will be in the title game. Until then they must settle for playing the MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies, BCS crashers for this year.
Believe it or not, the Northern Illinois Huskies are tied with Ohio State for the longest current winning streak in the country – 12 games. It will be interesting to see if NIU an extend that streak to 13 games. If they can, it will mark one of the most improbable season’s in quite some time! To win the Orange Bowl, NIU is going to have to do so without the man that lead them all the way to the MAC title and a #15 BCS ranking – Dave Doeren. Doeren accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina State and will not be on the sidelines for the Huskies tonight. Instead, NIU will be lead by Rod Carey who has also been installed as their permanent head coach.
While the head coaching position at NIU has garnered some attention, Florida State is also going through some coaching transitions. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. While he was trying to wear both hats, he found that he was unable to do so. That leaves DEs coach D.J. Eliot and Sal Sunseri as left in charge of running the defense for tonight’s game. How will the change in coordinators affect the Seminole defense and their preparation for NIU’s Jordan Lynch, only time will tell!
Las Vegas has installed Florida State as two touchdown favorites, but those that have followed college football closely know that the game could be much closer than that. Both teams have a lot to play for, and getting up to play in this game should not be a problem for either team.
How They Got Here
The year in Dekalb, IL got off to an inauspicious start as the Huskies lost a tight game to Iowa 18-17. When many felt like the Huskies played the Hawkeyes very well, no one thought it was or could be a harbinger of things to come. After the extremely close loss to Iowa, Northern Illinois would regroup and go on to win all of their remaining games, including the MAC title. Among those 12-consecutive victories were wins over Kansas, Army, Central Michigan, Ball State. In the MAC title game against #24 Kent State, NIU needed double OT to come away with the win. After the exciting MAC championship, they had to wait to see what their fate would be. When the BCS ranking were announced on Dec. 2, NIU was in the top-15 and were selected for the Discover Orange Bowl.
Now the Huskies face their biggest challenge of the year as they face the #2-rated defense in all of college football. Not to sell Northern Illinois short, they have the 9th best rushing offense in the country averaging over 250 yards per game and have scored over 40 points per game, 8th in the FBS. And, while many will talk about the Seminoles defense, and for good reason, the Huskies also boast a defense that can compete with anyone. On the year, the Huskies D has averaged giving up only 19 points per game, good for 18th nationally. Will Jordan Lynch and the Huskies, after making some strong statements in the press, be able to make good on their promise to shock the world? It will be interesting to watch.
The Seminoles entered the 2012 campaign with their sights set on playing for the national title, and for the first five games, they looked like a team that very well may play for the title. As they raced out to a 5-0 mark, the Seminoles made a statement with their 49-37 over #10 Clemson. The Tigers were loaded with speed and talent, players like DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Ellington, and Tajh Boyd, but the Seminoles ultimately wore them down late in the third quarter and into the fourth for the win.
Perhaps the win took something out of Florida State as they seemed to go flat in their next game at North Carolina State. A late TD drive by the Wolfpack saddled the Seminoles with a 17-16 defeat, their first of the year. Many pundits then wrote off the Seminoles as just another team that should contend but were merely pretenders. Well, Florida State picked themselves up off of the mat, and went on to win their next five consecutive games including wins over Virginia Tech, Miami, and Duke.
As the Seminoles entered the final week of the regular season, only a grudge match against their long-time rival Florida Gators stood in the way of the Seminoles making a case as being a team that should play for the title. In the end, the #4 Gators proved to be too much for Florida State and they came up short, losing 37-26. The following week, avoiding a letdown, the Seminoles took care of business in the ACC title game by defeating Georgia Tech to earn a BCS bowl berth in the Orange Bowl.
Florida State brings the 12th-leading scoring offense into the game, averaging 39.9 points per game, and they boast the nation’s #2 defense as well. They are looking to show NIU that although they had a good season, they haven’t played a team quite the caliber of Florida State. I suspect that Florida State will come out fired up, ready to prove that they belong in the same conversation with the Alabama’s and the Notre Dame’s of the country.